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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3066

Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (15:02): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) and the Minister for Communications (Senator Fifield) to questions without notice asked by Senators Ketter, Urquhart and Colbeck today relating to income tax and to the National Broadband Network.

I note that Minister Fifield mentioned the former member for Braddon, Mr Brett Whiteley, in his response to Senator Colbeck's question. Minister Fifield today mentioned the fibre-to-the-node NBN on the west coast as the signature achievement of Mr Brett Whiteley. The 'Minister for Selling the ABC and Rolling Out Copper Fibre' couldn't be more out of touch. This is the same Brett Whiteley who backed in Malcolm Turnbull's plans to service the west coast with satellite. This is the same Brett Whiteley who told people on the west coast that they would just have to put up with inferior communications because he had to at his property. That is what he told the people of the west coast when he went down there. This is the same Brett Whiteley who was dragged kicking and screaming by the people of the west coast to make his paltry election commitment for fibre to the node to the west coast people. This is the same Brett Whiteley who hasn't said a peep about NBN Co's decision not to deliver fibre to the curb to the west coast, despite it being rolled out to millions of homes across the country.

We asked Minister Cormann to explain why Braddon is the fourth-worst-off electorate in the country and why Longman is the 10th-worst-off electorate in the country, but Prime Minister Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth is the best-off electorate. Even former Prime Minister Abbott's electorate of Warringah is the third-best-off electorate under the Liberals' income tax plan. We ask this because it matters to the people of the north-west and west coast of Tasmania and the Caboolture area of South-East Queensland. It matters that they're working harder, that they're working longer, that their jobs are less secure and that they are constantly battling to make ends meet for their families. We ask this because we in the Labor Party believe governments should strive to make our income tax system fairer for all, to lift people up, to improve the incentives to work and to ensure families are meeting their cost-of-living pressures.

Under Labor's income tax plan, every Australian earning less than $125,000 a year will be better off than they would be under Malcolm Turnbull's plan. We believe that people on $180,000, $300,000 or $500,000 a year do not need help as much as do people on $35,000, $65,000 or $95,000 a year. And we know that people on $35,000, $65,000 and $95,000 a year are more likely to spend the money from those tax cuts on goods and services in small businesses in their local communities. In the electorate of Braddon, 39,000 people will be better off by up to $928 a year. Over three-quarters of taxpayers in the electorate of Braddon will get a bigger, better and fairer tax cut under Labor. Most people will be almost twice as well off under Labor's tax proposals, getting hundreds of dollars a year extra, more than what the Liberals are proposing.

What we've seen today is not only unfortunate for the people of Braddon and Longman but deeply disappointing for all Australian workers. Instead of accepting a compromise to split the upcoming income tax bill, to allow the tax cuts due to commence on 1 July this year to pass and then allow the people of Australia to decide the merits of Labor's income tax policy versus the Liberals' during the election, Mr Turnbull and Senator Cormann have snubbed their noses at Australian workers.

Brett Whiteley needs to decide. Does he stand for workers in Braddon getting a tax cut in two weeks time? Does he stand for decent communications infrastructure for the north-west and the west coast? Will he get on the phone to Mr Turnbull and Senator Cormann and demand that they split the income tax bill and allow the tax cuts to pass? Will he go and have a chat with Senator Martin about his comments that, on the NBN, Malcolm Turnbull is treating north-west and west coast Tasmanians as second-class citizens, or will he accept his Prime Minister's dictate? Is Brett Whiteley interested in sticking up for the people of Braddon? I'll come into this place any day and debate Brett Whiteley's political record. He never stood up for the people of Braddon. He pushed an inferior NBN down the necks of people on the west coast. He did not stand up for them when he was in government, and I don't expect that he would do it if he were here again. He never has and he never will. Braddon has never had a worse representative than Brett Whiteley, and this government wants to send him back to Canberra to push second-class decisions onto the people of Braddon. I don't think they will cop it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Urquhart. I'd just remind you to refer to those in the other chamber by their correct titles.