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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4409


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (19:08): This government's budget and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018 are the end of progressive taxation as we know it. When you come into this chamber and say you want to set up a taxation system in a few years' time, where someone who is earning less than the minimum wage pays the same rate of tax as a CEO on $200,000, that's a direct attack on egalitarianism in this country. The reason that we have a progressive tax system in this country is there is an ingrained belief that the majority of the population share that, if you earn more, you can contribute a bit more. The reason we ask people to contribute a bit more is that, if that money goes to fund universal health care and universal public education, we then stay an egalitarian country. People understand that, in order to have a world-class public education system and to be able to do things like get rid of so-called voluntary fees that are costing people sometimes thousands but in many case hundreds of dollars a year to send their kids to public schools, we need to have a secure revenue stream. That is why this bill needs to be voted against. It is a direct attack on progressive taxation.

When you ask people, 'Which would you rather: a tax cut of $10 or even maybe $20 a week; that the government invests to make sure that every time you go to the doctor you don't have to put your own hand in your pocket to pay for it; or that when you send your kid to school you don't also have to fork out for voluntary fees?' most will say, 'Provided that the government spends it on making sure Australia remains an egalitarian society and provided it goes on universal services, I would probably rather you spent it on those than gave out a tax cut of $10 or $20 a week that's probably going to disappear because no-one's going to regulate electricity prices, and they're going through the roof, or that's probably going to disappear because schools are underfunded and we're asked to pay for that.'

But, if there's one thing that the appalling budget and this bill have done, it's successfully fired the starting gun for the next election, turning it into a tax cuts arms race. It is very disappointing that we are here not debating how we can make Australia a more equal society but instead having this competition about who can have the bigger tax cuts. There are much better ways of looking after people who are doing it tough and who are on low incomes. Let's raise the minimum wage and let's have a discussion about those people on Newstart, who are living in poverty and aren't going to benefit one iota from a tax cut if they're solely reliant on Newstart. Let's look at ways of lifting those people up and making them more equal.

Dr Leigh interjecting

Mr BANDT: I hear interjections from the opposition, saying, 'What about low-wage workers?' I would say the best way to support low-wage workers is to lift the minimum wage and ensure they get a wage rise, because I think a wage rise is better than a tax cut. I also say to the opposition: whatever you think, I don't think someone earning $125,000 classifies as being on a low income. When you've got housing prices going through the roof and a rise in insecure employment, there are, it is true, many people in my electorate who are earning at the top end of the income scale but still finding it hard to make ends meet because most of their money goes on the mortgage because we've failed to get house prices under control. But no matter how you squint at it and how you twist, you can't say that someone earning $100,000, $110,000 or $120,000 is on a low income. So the question that we have to ask is: is money best spent giving people on $100,000 an extra $1,000, as this amendment proposes, or is money best spent by saying, 'If you're earning $100,000, then perhaps let's have the discussion about putting money into health care, schools and lifting Newstart so that we can make Australia a more equal society.' I know that, instead of having a $900 bribe, most of the people I talk to in Melbourne who are on decent incomes would rather have that money go to people who are doing it tough on Newstart. They would rather that money go to funding public schools so that people don't have to pay out-of-pocket voluntary fees. They would rather that money go into the public health system to make sure it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg to go and see the GP. It is a sad day when we're having a 'my tax cut is bigger than yours' arms race instead of focusing on making sure Australia is an egalitarian society.

The SPEAKER: The question is that amendments (8) to (11) moved by the member for McMahon be agreed to.