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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2940

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (16:24): I rise to participate in this debate, noting the questions asked by Senators Wong and Marshall during question time today. They are very relevant questions. As represented in the budget, how much will certain government policy initiatives cost the budget? We're talking about the corporate tax cut and we're talking about the personal income tax cuts that are cast off into the never-never, seven years and two elections from now. It's valid that the opposition ask these questions. It's valid that the Senate, through the crossbench and the other minor parties, ask these questions. We are being asked by the Minister for Finance and the Prime Minister to vote for these personal income tax cuts and to vote for this corporate tax cut, yet we cannot get an answer out of this government as to what providing these tax concessions to big business, the big end of town and some of the wealthiest people in our community will cost the budget.

Budgets are all about choices. They are about what you choose to invest in, how you choose to stimulate the economy and how you choose to provide wage growth to people who have not seen a wage increase in many years. It is valid that the Senate ask these questions. Today we got no answers. We received no answers from Minister Cormann on the cost of the corporate tax cut or the cost of those personal income tax cuts—phase 3, as the Treasurer called them in his budget speech.

I make note that Labor has already made clear it will support the government's income tax cuts that are slated to come in on 1 July. That is because we know working people have not participated in the profits and in the productivity gains that we've seen in this country. Their wages have flatlined. We believe it is appropriate that the government, through the tax system, provide them with some relief. When it comes to an $80 billion big business tax giveaway, we see the government giving $17 billion to the banks there. That figure of $17 billion is important because it also happens to be the amount of money that the government is taking away from schools. That is the choice the Turnbull government is making in this budget: $17 billion given to the banks in the form of a corporate tax cut and $17 billion taken away from our nation's children and our nation's schools.

We also heard in question time today that Minister Cormann does believe the Business Council of Australia is helpful to his cause and that they could do more. I'm sure he's delighted with the news that the Business Council of Australia is creating a $26 million fighting fund to campaign for the Turnbull government. No doubt they're grateful for the largesse that will flow to big business as a result of this corporate tax cut. No doubt the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister are happy about this fighting fund. It may well prevent Malcolm Turnbull from having to put his hand in his deep pocket for the $1.75 million to fund the next Liberal Party campaign.

I want to look briefly at this third tranche of the personal income tax cuts that will take two elections and seven years before we see them. What we do know from the Treasurer is that he's planning to flatten the tax rate. If you are earning between $40,000 and $200,000, he proposes that you pay the same rate of tax. Ask yourself: how is it fair that somebody who is on $40,000 will get a couple of hundred dollars back in a tax cut but someone on $200,000 will get $7,000 back on a tax cut? These are the numbers we know. The number we don't know is the cost of this tranche of the personal income tax cuts to the budget, yet we are being asked by this government to vote this in without that information.

Senator Smith had a great time when he finally got to the substance of the debate, reading out a number of quotes from the past. What the good senator may well bear in mind is that there is a different context today. Today we have a budget where the deficit is 6½ times what the Liberal Party promised it would be in 2014. The deficit has increased by 6½ times on their watch. We have net debt that has doubled. We have debt that has crashed through half a trillion dollars, and we've seen no prospect of that coming under half a trillion dollars in the next decade. That is the budgetary context in which we operate. It is very different to the past context. Senator Smith may want to ask himself this: if the coalition was so gung-ho on corporate tax cuts, why didn't they support them in 2011? Of course, they didn't. Here we have a Senate being asked to pass a corporate tax cut and to cut income tax cuts off in the never-never with no sense of what they will cost. It's valid that we get those answers. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.