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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2286

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:34): I don't know about you or the colleagues, but my favourite part of an otherwise pretty disappointing question time from those opposite was when the Prime Minister came to the dispatch box. He had all of that preening self-regard which explains the last 27 consecutive Newspolls. He had the tea pot; he had the sugar bowl; he had the glasses off, held with the thumb. There was all of the explaining about how he was suddenly the king of consistency. This is the guy that's turned his back on the republic, turned his back on climate change and turned his back on all the things he said on Q&A that he once believed in lecturing the Australian parliament about consistency.

As the member for McMahon rightly pointed out, to give the Prime Minister his due there is one thing that he has always been consistent about. Since he's been in this place and before that, he has had one objective alone, and that is to favour the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia. This has been his agenda for as long as he's been in here. He will always go for the top end of town because he doesn't understand the people in this country who work and struggle for a living to provide for their families. They camouflage their company tax cut and their tax cuts for millionaires with all this flowery language that what they actually want is increases in wages and for blue collar jobs to be created. But we know from those 27 consecutive Newspolls that the Australian people know better.

I was up in Townsville with the outstanding member for Herbert on Thursday and Friday. The Leader of the Opposition was up there earlier in the week. The member for Blaxland was up there last week. We go a lot to Townsville, in the member for Herbert's electorate. When I was up there with the member for Herbert, speaking with businesses and the local community, I was wondering why the Prime Minister and the Treasurer don't go to Townsville. They are hardly ever up there. We're up there all the time, as you know. I think the reason is that if they tried to go to Townsville and say, 'Guess what? We think that the big business tax cuts will flow through to your wages, people of Townsville,' they would get laughed out of town. That's why they don't go to Townsville. The people of North Queensland can spot a fraud a mile away and they know this argument is fraudulent.

This is a con job about company tax cuts trickling down to people who work and struggle. This government look around and see record low wage growth, record high household debt, no consumption in the economy, rising inequality. They look around and see that, and they say that the main challenge that we need to deal with in this country is that currently multinational corporations from overseas pay too much tax in Australia. That's their conclusion when they see what's going on. They look around and they want us to believe that if they shower largesse on the top end of town it will miraculously trickle down to everybody else. That hasn't worked overseas and it hasn't worked here. We have 20 per cent growth in profits at the moment and two per cent growth in wages. That shows that a tax cut of this nature will not necessarily flow through. After all the lectures about a budget emergency they also want us to believe that all of a sudden there's a spare $65 billion lying around. They've used that budget emergency to justify hacking at the social safety net for people who need a bit of government support.

We don't support this $65 billion ram raid on the budget for three reasons. It's unfair: it preferences the top end of town at the expense of middle Australia. It's unwise, because even the Treasury modelling says the benefits will be negligible and way down the track and we can't direct this money towards investing in the productive side of the economy. And it's unaffordable because it does even more structural damage to the budget, when we already have record debt which is growing faster per month than it was under Labor, which had to deal with the global financial crisis.

We welcome a debate about these choices in the economy. It's all about getting the best value for money and growing the economy the right way. On this side of the House we choose to invest in people and their productivity and their infrastructure. We choose not to smash people's disposable incomes, their living standards and the demand in the economy by jacking up tax on seven million workers or taking away penalty rates. Those opposite make a different choice. They choose a tax cut for big foreign multinational companies. Their approach sows the seeds of division in this country by favouring one small group at the expense of everyone else, when we should be coming together and recognising that the only growth worth a cracker in this country is inclusive growth which doesn't leave people behind. We should be realising that a first-rate First World economy like ours needs growth to be inclusive. It needs work to be rewarded and it needs a decent social safety net as well.