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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2081


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital TerritoryAssistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) (13:05): If one wanted to reflect on how far the Labor Party have departed from their former economic credentials, we heard it just then from Senator Wong. Her speech today could have been written and delivered by Jeremy Corbyn or it could have been written and delivered by Sarah Hanson-Young. It was so completely lacking in logic and so internally contradictory as to demonstrate just how far the Labor Party have thrown out even the pretence that they care about growing the economy and even the pretence that they care about basic economics when it comes to running the country.

There is one thing that Senator Wong is correct about, and that is that the contours of the next election campaign are being determined, and I will go into that. As we face this choice over the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan No. 2) Bill 2017, there is no doubt that the vision that the Labor Party are putting forward for the future of the country is one that would take us in a radically different and destructive direction when it comes to prosperity in this country, when it comes to jobs in this country and when it comes to the future of our children and their ability to find employment and to have decent wages. It would all be thrown out.

Now Senator Wong, in her Green-like or her Corbyn-like rhetoric, got a number of things just completely wrong. She was wrong on personal income tax cuts. Senator Wong and the Labor Party are now claiming, through their use of rhetoric like 'handouts', that in fact money created by Australians and created by Australian businesses is all the government's money, that 100 per cent of it should go to the government and then the government can determine how much of it you get to keep. Do you get to keep 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 30 per cent? That's the rhetoric of handouts and that's the rhetoric of redistribution that we just heard from Senator Wong, which builds on the narrative that Mr Shorten has been employing in this debate. Senator Wong has just demonstrated how vacuous the modern Labor Party is.

You can understand that the Greens might not get that actually cutting company tax is good for the economy, they might not get that cutting company tax is good for jobs and they might not get that it's good for wages, but the Labor Party doesn't have the same excuse. I will get to some of what the Labor Party actually believes, but first I will pose a question to senators, to the chamber and to those listening: what kind of a party and what kind of individuals who know that a policy is good for the nation, know that it grows jobs and know that it grows wages would still choose to vote against it? What kind of a political party and what kinds of individuals would deliberately block policies that they know will create greater opportunities for Australians, will see more Australians in jobs and will see more Australians having the opportunity to be paid higher wages for their jobs? That's a party that's not fit for office. That's a party that is engaging in the most cynical of politicking when it knows that in fact this policy would be good for the nation.

Senator Wong also talked about the 'Labor way'. But what is the 'Labor way' that she talked about? This is why this debate is so critical, because the Labor Party, supported by the Greens, are suggesting that we go down a radically different path in this country. It is a path where you don't actually have any policies for growing the economy; all you have are policies for redistributing wealth. You're left with no policies for growing jobs, you're left with no policies for growing the economy and you're left with no policy for wages growth.

So let's have a look at the Labor way versus the coalition way and compare and contrast. In the last year of the coalition government we've seen 420,000 jobs created, five times as many as in the last year of the Labor government. That was the Labor way. But, worse than that, where over 300,000—or 75 per cent—of those 420,000 jobs that have been created under the coalition are full-time jobs, in the last year of a Labor government, with their anti-business policies, their anti-business rhetoric and their economic vandalism, we saw growth in full-time jobs go backwards. Fewer Australians were in full-time work in the last year of the Labor government than they were a year before. That's one way of doing things. That was the Labor Party policy, and they are now doubling down on that. If they come into government, things will in fact be worse because the policy that they are putting forward has actually moved further to the left.

Going back to Senator Wong's contribution for a moment, it was internally contradictory. It was undergraduate in its contradictions. It started with the proposition that, 'Yes, we knew it was good, but we couldn't afford it.' That's what Julia Gillard said and that's what Bill Shorten has said—that in fact they know that company tax cuts are actually good for wages and good for jobs. But Senator Wong said, 'Oh, we couldn't afford it.' Then she ended, along with her Greens colleagues, by suggesting, 'There is no evidence whatsoever that cutting company tax for small, medium and large businesses in this country will actually grow jobs.' This is what the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate put to this place today—that in fact there is now no evidence that cutting company taxes will grow jobs or grow the economy.

Which economists are the Labor Party now listening to that they would draw such a conclusion? Is this what Chris Bowen thinks? Does Chris Bowen agree with Senator Wong that there is no evidence that cutting company tax actually increases jobs and wages? That's not what Chris Bowen has had to say on this issue in the past. That's not what Julia Gillard had to say on this issue in the past. That's not what virtually any senior Labor figure has said on it in the past. So let's go to what they've said. Chris Bowen says Labor is aiming for a 25 per cent corporate tax rate. He said:

I would like to see the corporate tax rate come down over time. I have previously said that the nation should be aiming for a 25 per cent corporate tax rate.

Why would Mr Bowen, the shadow Treasurer, be arguing for a 25 per cent corporate tax rate? Is that because he likes giving so-called handouts to big business? Or is it because he has actually listened to virtually every reputable economist, who are saying that, if you cut company tax, there will be more investment, more jobs and higher wages? Who's right? Is it Senator Wong, who says now that there's no evidence that if you cut company tax you will get any more investment or any more jobs? Or is it Chris Bowen, who made a completely different point?

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she remained:

… determined to give business a tax cut even though the government scrapped a promise to do so in the budget.

She said:

I am very determined to deliver a company tax cut.

Again, you have to ask yourself the question: why was Prime Minister Gillard determined to give a company tax cut? Was it because she believed in so called handouts to big business, as is now the claim from the Labor Party? Or was it because she actually thought it might be good for the economy and for workers? Former Prime Minister Gillard said many times that it's good for workers, that it's good for economic growth, that it's good for growing jobs and that it's good for wages. Now Senator Wong is claiming there is no evidence that it would be anything of the sort.

Bill Shorten said:

Cutting the company income tax rate increases domestic productivity and domestic investment. More capital means higher productivity and economic growth and leads to more jobs and higher wages.

Was Bill Shorten lying then or was Senator Wong lying today? That's the question. I would say the overwhelming evidence suggests the latter. There is no third-party endorsement other than from the CFMEU and the ACTU for the position that is now being put by the Labor Party in this place. They are now claiming: 'On the one hand, we'd do it if it were affordable, but on the other hand we're not doing it because it'll make absolutely no difference.' You know that is a load of absolute rubbish. It's an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people and, frankly, the people who will be making the decision in this chamber when you've claimed for years that this would be a good thing for economic growth, a good thing for jobs and a good thing for wages, and now you come into this place and pretend that it would actually do nothing. It's an absolute fig leaf for the Labor Party to come in and say, 'Oh, well, it's sort of about affordability, but it actually wouldn't make any difference and it's a handout.' No-one's going to employ any more people, according to Senator Wong, if you cut their taxes. This will be a revelation to people who have been in business in Australia or to anyone who knows anything about business. The Leader of the Opposition in this place today claims that cutting taxes doesn't lead to more investment or more jobs. Which economic theory is Senator Wong relying on when she makes that absurd claim? It is a dishonest claim and it is a claim without any substance. It is a claim that Senator Wong, Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and the entire Labor team know to be false.

I go back to the question: what kind of party and what kind of people would deliberately vote against a measure that they know would actually grow jobs, grow the economy and grow wages? That is a party and individuals who are not fit to hold office, and they are certainly not fit to occupy the Treasury benches with the economic vandalism that they employed last time, they sought to employ in opposition and they again seek to impose on the Australian people. We know what that Labor vision looks like. We've seen the evidence. It's going to lead to fewer Australians being employed, more long-term unemployment, more young people not being able to get jobs, more underemployment, a lower participation rate and more people on welfare.

Have the Labor Party stopped to consider for one moment that we have the lowest number of people on welfare in this country in 20 years? We have the highest wages growth on record. Have the Labor Party stopped to consider just for one moment that you need good policies to actually help to create that? This doesn't happen by accident. It certainly didn't happen under Labor in their last year when we saw the number of full-time jobs going backwards. You need economic reform in order to deliver higher living standards. You need economic reform in order to deliver more jobs. You need economic reform in order to deliver higher wages. This used to be something that was not accepted only at the fringes of this parliament by the likes of the Greens. We know where the Greens stand. We expect that they don't care about jobs. We expect that they want more people on welfare. We expect that they know nothing about how to grow the economy. But we've got a Labor Party who want to be in government, we've got a Labor Party who are the alternative government in our nation, and they are now putting forward the proposition, the lie, that cutting taxes does nothing for investment. They know it's not true and yet they perpetrate this lie on the Australian people and they put to our crossbench colleagues that it's going to make no difference. At the start of Senator Wong's address, she said that we can't afford it, and, at the end, that it was going to make absolutely no difference. Now, Senator Wong and the Labor Party know that to not be true, even if the Greens don't understand it. But I would say to the crossbenchers, who will be making judgements on this: have a look at the fact that even those in the Labor Party who are arguing against it know it's the right policy. They've argued for it as the right policy. Bill Shorten said:

… lowering the corporate rate for smaller businesses only (as the Greens propose) creates an artificial incentive for Australian businesses to downsize.

In worse case scenarios some businesses might actually lay people off to get smaller—and the size based different tax treatment would create a glass ceiling on business workforce growth.

Instead we want a level playing field regardless of the size of the company.

I repeat what he said:

Cutting the company income tax rate increases domestic productivity and domestic investment. More capital means higher productivity and economic growth and leads to more jobs and higher wages.

We as a Senate are going to have the opportunity soon enough to vote on this legislation, and there's going to be a choice as to whether we believe proposition A, put forward by the coalition and every credible economist, that cutting company taxes leads to more investment, more jobs and higher wages, or proposition B, put forward by the Labor Party and the Greens, that it doesn't make any difference. As they consider that, I would put to senators: if Bill Shorten doesn't believe what he's saying and if Senator Wong doesn't believe what she's saying, you shouldn't believe what they're saying. There has been no credible case put against it, and that's why we've got this overblown rhetoric about handouts. A tax cut is not a handout. A tax cut is only a handout if you believe that all of the money earned by business and individuals is the government's money. That has to be your starting proposition. We reject that. I would expect that most people in this chamber would in fact reject that proposition.

I say this—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President—to the crossbenchers: if the Labor Party do not believe what they're saying, you shouldn't believe it. If no credible economist is backing what they're saying, then what is the case against? If you want to grow the economy, I can point to numerous places where credible economists talk about the growth dividend that will come through. I think it was Warwick McKibbin who talked about $160 billion over the decade. When you do cut taxes, you see an economic growth dividend that's much bigger than the amount you may have gained in tax cuts. There's a funny thing that happens with economic growth—and it is difficult to model, but we've seen it in the past. When you grow the economy by cutting taxes, regulation and red tape, and more people are working, do you know what happens? You actually get more money coming in in taxes because there are more taxpayers, there is more productivity, we're exporting more and we're trading more.

We as a Senate could take the approach put forward by the Labor Party, which is: you don't need to bother about growing the economy; what you need to do is have a look at the economy as it stands and see which bits of it you can redistribute. Well, that policy has been tried many, many times and—I will give you the tip—it has failed every time. The redistributionist policies that are being promoted by the Labor Party do not create a single job. They do not create a single opportunity. They do not see people's wages go up. What they do lead to is, in fact, the exact opposite—as Senator Wong so eloquently put it, 'the Labor way'. What is the Labor way? We saw it the last time they were in office. In the last year Labor were in office, there were fewer full-time jobs in Australia than the year before. We saw the number of people in full-time work go backwards, despite the fact that our population was growing. We've got the coalition way, which is 420,000 jobs in a year—well over 300,000 of those jobs are full-time.

I put it to the Senate that this is not an accident. It has come about through cutting taxes for small business, through cutting regulation, through getting rid of things like the carbon tax, through free trade agreements and through having a mindset that says: 'We want to see businesses have a go. We want to see them have opportunities to employ more people. But we know they can't do it if we put too many burdens on them. By reducing those burdens, we will see prosperity for Australians.' We are seeing that right now. We have an opportunity to build on that or we can take this country backwards, as Senator Wong and Bill Shorten would like us to do, to a place where it's all about redistribution and not about growing the economy. I commend this bill to the Senate. (Time expired)