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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2918

Taxation


Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann. On 27 March, the minister told the Senate that the Business Council of Australia's letter to senators, advocating for the Turnbull government's $80 billion handout to big business was 'a very important intervention'. When did the government first become aware of the BCA's intention to facilitate the letter to senators? Did the BCA provide an advance copy of the letter or any draft to the government? If so, when and to whom was it provided?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:56): Yes, I was aware that the BCA would be writing to senators. The precise dates and times I would have to take on notice. But let me confirm again that, yes, I do take the view that that was a very significant intervention by the most senior of business leaders in Australia, the biggest employers in Australia, because what they were clearly indicating was that if the Senate were to pass those business tax cuts in full it would lead to more investment, more jobs and higher wages as the tax cuts took effect. Do you know why that is? It is because if we stop putting Australian business at a disadvantage we stop putting Australian workers at a disadvantage. Right now, by putting Australian businesses at a disadvantage by forcing them to pay higher taxes than businesses in other parts of the world, the people that we are putting at a disadvantage are their employees and the employees of the small and medium-sized businesses providing goods and services to them.

Look at a business like Qantas. Qantas is an Australian business success story. It started with three employees in Longreach in the great state of Queensland. Today, it employs 30,000 people and operates in a fiercely competitive international, global, industry. If you put Qantas at a competitive disadvantage you lower the job security of the 30,000 people working for Qantas and you lower the job security of the many Australians working for the 3,000 small and medium-sized businesses supplying goods and services to Qantas. That is what we understand. We understand that putting Australian businesses, big and small, at a disadvantage to businesses in other parts of the world puts Australian workers at a serious disadvantage. It puts their jobs at risk. It puts their future wage increases at risk. We want families in Australia to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. That is why we want the businesses that employ them to have the best possible opportunity to be successful and more profitable into the future.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Keneally, a supplementary question.



Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (14:58): After the 2016 federal election, the Victorian Liberal Party President, Michael Kroger, said BCA members 'should have been out there heavily supporting the Turnbull government'. Given the BCA is now committed to a public campaign in support of the Turnbull government's $80 billion handout to big business, is the minister satisfied the BCA is working sufficiently hard to support the Turnbull government?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:59): Let me say that I have a good working relationship with the Business Council of Australia, but there's always more that can be done in standing up for good economic policy—because, on this side of the chamber, we stand for working Australians. The Labor Party and Bill Shorten have sold out working Australians. The decisions the Labor Party are making are putting hardworking Australians at a competitive disadvantage with people in other parts of the world because you are putting the businesses that employ them at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world. And do you know what? Don't take my view for it. That was the view of none other than Mr Shorten. That was the view of none other than Mr Bowen. In attacking the Greens, Mr Shorten once gave a rolled-gold guarantee that he was in favour of business tax cuts for all businesses, not just small businesses. He once used to say that tax cuts for business, all businesses, lead to more investment, more jobs and higher wages. He was telling the truth then. He's misleading people now. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Keneally, a final supplementary question?



Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (15:00): Since Mr Kroger's public criticism, the BCA has appointed former Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane to the BCA's new political advisory board and hired former Liberal Party director Andrew Bragg as the BCA's executive director for members. Minister, isn't it clear that the BCA is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Liberal Party?

Senator Kim Carr: A branch of the Liberal Party!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Carr, you've been very well behaved this week. Now is not the time to change that pattern.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right! Senator Fierravanti-Wells! Senator Carr! I asked for silence during questions so that I may hear them. There was complete disorder on my right during that question.





Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (15:01): The Business Council of Australia is clearly a very important organisation, but let me tell you what I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about the fact that Mr Shorten is a wholly owned subsidiary of the CFMEU. Every single one of you are wholly owned subsidiaries of one union or another, and you are selling out Australian workers because, by putting Australian businesses at a competitive disadvantage and forcing businesses in Australia to pay higher taxes than the businesses they compete with in other parts of the world, you are putting jobs in Australia at risk. You are putting wage increases in Australia at risk You know better. You're doing it for base political reasons. You're doing it because you're trying to appeal to the worst instincts of some people in Australia because you believe in the politics of envy, even though you know it's bad for economic prosperity. Bill Shorten believes that the politics of envy will get him into the Lodge. That is why he's doing what he's doing—not because he believes for one minute that what he's promoting now is good for the country.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! We're almost at the end of question time.