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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9114

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (12:05): The positions of the government and the position of the opposition are very, very clear. In moving this motion today, the government want to insist that they will continue with the abolition of the schoolkids bonus, insist that they will continue with the abolition of the income support bonus and insist that they will continue with the abolition of the low-income superannuation contribution. They also, of course, want to continue with deferring the move in superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent, which is still contained in the bill, as it has been returned from the Senate, and want to continue with increasing taxes on small business, which is also included in the bill as it has been returned from the Senate.

Just last week, the Prime Minister was saying, 'We don't support raising taxes.' Here is a bill which in effect raises taxes on small business, a group in the community the coalition like to pay lip-service to but here they are voting today to continue to increase raising taxes on small business by reducing the threshold for the instant asset write-off and abolishing the loss carryback mechanism, which were introduced by the previous government. All of these measures impact right across our community, most particularly low- and middle-income earners. The abolition of the low-income superannuation contribution would be a shameful thing for either house of this parliament to pass. The low-income superannuation contribution is the only mechanism whereby low-income earners get some little assistance to save for their future for retirement through the superannuation system.

If this low income superannuation contribution is abolished, government members will have succeeded in insisting that people on low incomes receive zero tax concessions for superannuation, while at the same time insisting that people on high incomes receive more generous superannuation contributions. They will be voting against the modest measures put in place by the previous Labor government while insisting in this House on abolishing the only tax concession available for people earning under $37,000. That means that, primarily, 2.1 million women will be affected because, as the House knows, women are unduly represented in the ranks of low-income workers. They need assistance to save for their retirement.

The Treasurer huffs and puffs and beats his chest about the need to ensure that our age pension is sustainable. Well, here is a measure where we say to people on low incomes, 'If you save for the future through superannuation and put money aside right throughout your working life, then the government will provide you with some assistance.' Otherwise, people on low incomes are inevitably going to be on the age pension and the full age pension at that! But the government, in their wisdom, say 'No, no, we'll make the indexation of the age pension meaner, less generous and make people work until they are 70'—the highest pension age in the world—'and if you are on a low income, are a cleaner or working in manual trades or the retail industry and earning under $37,000 then we're not going to assist you to save for your future. We're not going to help you save through superannuation.'

It is all about values, Madam Speaker; it is all about priorities. Our values on this side of the House are very clear. We will stand with low-income earners and say, 'We will provide some assistance to save for the future.' We support people getting assistance for superannuation right up and down the income scale, but we just say, 'Show a little bit of fairness and support for people on low incomes.' What have people on low incomes done to deserve the treatment from this government, apart from work hard? They have committed no crime, apart from working hard and attempting to save for the future. Of course, at the same time the government wants to further delay the increase, from nine per cent to 12 per cent, in the superannuation guarantee.

To give them their credit, the government had already indicated before the election that there would be some delay but of course they have gone further. On top of the delay announced before the election, they are now delaying further, despite the Prime Minister's commitment of no adverse changes to superannuation. I would say that delaying the move from nine per cent to 12 per cent is an adverse change to superannuation. Again, it means that low- and middle-income earners will not have the superannuation they need for an adequate and dignified retirement. The impact on rural and regional areas is particularly stark with, again, low-income earners being starkly represented right across the great rural areas and regions of our nation. Do we hear a word from the National Party in their defence? Not a word in defence of the hardworking people of rural and regional Australia, who are adversely impacted by this change, which the Liberal dominated government are determined to insist upon.

The member for Jagajaga could no doubt speak at length about the income support bonus and its important place in the social fabric of this nation. The Senate cares about the income support bonus but the House, with the majority sitting on the other side, could not care less about the income support bonus. These measures before the House and the parliamentary secretary's motion that the bill be laid aside tell us very starkly about the values and priorities of those opposite. We are happy to have that debate. We are happy to stand for the schoolkids bonus, the low-income support contribution and the income support bonus.

Mr Ciobo: What about debt and deficit?

Mr BOWEN: I am happy to talk about debt and I am happy to talk about the debt that you are imposing on Australian households, who commit no crime other than working hard. Let's have that debate, let's talk about the debt and the budget emergency you have created for not only the Australian people but the states and territories right across the country. There are budget emergencies and you and your 'hopelessly out of his depth Treasurer' have created them. As he flails around, trying to sell his budget, he does not realise that the reason he cannot sell the budget is that it is a complete dud. It is a complete dud, which is bad for the economy and is fundamentally based on an unfair set of principles. That is why he cannot sell it.

Go back to the drawing board and start again, then you might have another chance at selling it. The parliamentary secretary might one day give the Treasurer a run for his money. He might step up. You go have another go. Start the budget again and this time start with a premise of fairness. The Australian people are up for a conversation about tough decisions, but we want to see a discussion based on fairness. That is what this government completely fails to do.

The Labor Party will continue to insist on the retention of important mechanisms through our social fabric such as the schoolkids bonus, the income support bonus and the low income superannuation contribution, which ensure more fairness in the system. We will continue to stand up for small businesses, which have done nothing wrong except work hard. They deserve the instant asset write-off and the loss carry-back. This side of the House stands for lower taxes for small business and by their vote today the other side of the House, despite their rhetoric, stands for higher taxes for small business. It is a fact. That is the motion you are voting on and you are voting in favour of more red tape and higher taxes for small business. That is not rhetoric; that is a simple fact contained in your bill.

Government members interjecting

Mr BOWEN: They do not like to hear about it. They do not like to be reminded of the facts about their own legislation, which includes measures to increase tax on small business. It is a matter of fact, despite the rhetoric we hear of those opposite. They say they are committed to reducing compliance costs for small business by $1 billion a year. What a start we have in this legislation, because the reduction of the threshold of the instant asset write-off is not just a tax increase; it is a very significant increase in red tape burden for small business. Again, this side of the House stands for less red tape for small business and that side of the House, by their vote, their own legislation—

Government members interjecting

Mr BOWEN: It gets them going, doesn't it? They do not like hearing about the impact of their own policies, their own legislation. Your words are cheap, but your policies are very expensive for small business in this country, because small business is being let down by their government. They were told lots of things before the election, but what they are seeing post election are a government determined to make life harder for small business. The Labor Party will continue to insist that the instant asset write-off and the loss carry-back, which are important tax measures, and red tape reduction measures for small business are implemented, just as the other measures contained in this bill should be.