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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6187


Mr HILL (Bruce) (16:09): I was just inspired to say a few words on this. I was going to speak on this—I read the bill's digest a few weeks ago—but I was distracted over the weekend and didn't have time to prepare considered comments with quotes from history, like a whole undergraduate political or economic lecture, such as someone wrote for the member for Mackellar, which was lovely. I would just remind the House of a few key points. Firstly, this was a Labor initiative. Despite the rhetoric we have just heard, this was actually initiated by the member for McMahon when he was a minister in the Labor government. I was listening, but I didn't hear the previous speaker thank the Labor Party for this sensible, modest reform. It's exactly the kind of reform you do if you want to grow investment in the country and see more funds flow into Australia for our fast-growing and well-managed funds management sector.

I can't help but reflect on some of the nonsense we heard from the Prime Minister at question time. He is a little obsessed with Paul Keating. He's a little jealous, of course. We know what Paul Keating said about him. Keating said, 'He's a fizzer,' like a big red firecracker that goes off and then there's nothing. We heard in question time that little lecture from the Prime Minister, where somehow Labor had abandoned its history of company tax cuts when Paul Keating cut the company tax rate from 49 to 39 and then some years later again from 39 to 33—I haven't got the exact figures in front of me. What the Prime Minister and the government neglect to tell us is that those cuts, particularly the big one from 49 to 39, were not just put on the nation's debt. They didn't just back the truck up to the ATM and hand out cash to big business. The Labor Party made a sensible taxation and economic reform, because they slashed the headline rate by expanding the base.

I'm not an economist, as I would be the first here to admit, but I do know enough about economic reform and the concepts of efficiency to say that any sensible economist would say, 'You're much better off to reduce the taxation rate through reforming an existing tax.' The Labor Party didn't lose revenue and didn't give away billions of dollars to the big end of town. They reformed the taxation system. This, as we've heard, is one of the factors—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): The minister, on a point of order?

Mr Laundy: It's not an omnibus bill. Where's the relevance to the bill in question?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm listening carefully. I will determine when it strays.

Mr HILL: We've heard from the government and, indeed, the previous government speaker that this is an important thing to facilitate more investment. That's fair enough. I agree that it is a useful step. But, if we're talking about what else we could do—as this bill does contemplate—to improve Australia's funds management sector, then I'd encourage the government to pay some more attention to behind-the-border trade barriers instead of its obsession with just striking any trade deal it can find on the way through. Not every trade deal is a great trade deal. If you go out and have a chat to business, business keeps telling us that these kinds of things would do far more to see investment flow into the country.

I used to work in the economic development department in Victoria. I worked in investment and trade. I spent some time, before I left the Victorian government, actually having a look at the financial services sector strategy. That is sensible government policy, what a grown-up government would do, which is have a look at a sector that has great potential to do more for Australia and then actually craft a decent industry policy. I have no disagreement with building submarines or ships in Australia, but it does not substitute for an industry policy, as this government pretends.

I applaud the government on actually following through with a piece of legislation, five years later, to implement a good Labor government initiative. I applaud you. It's good and very sensible. But if you want to be taken seriously on all the other stuff you say about this bill, then you'd have a look and be real about the other factors that are far more important than the headline company tax rate, which just about no company actually pays in Australia, as you well know. There are things like the stability of our financial sector, things like our liveability, things like a positive investment climate and things like infrastructure. Those things are far more important—you know it and business knows it—for facilitating more investment.