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Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Page: 3468

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:16): The Australian people know a desperate con job when they see it, and certainly they saw one last night, and certainly they saw more desperation at question time today—a desperate attempt to distract from the failings of this awful government. I've got a tip for the government. I've got a tip for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer: if you want people to forget that you're making them work until they're 70 before they can get the aged pension, drop the policy. If you want people to forget that you're going to take $14 a fortnight off pensioners and recipients of Newstart, drop the policy. But, of course, both of those policies are at the centrepiece of their budget delivered last night. They remain government policy.

I will tell you what else remains government policy: they've got to find the money from somewhere to pay for their corporate tax cuts. That's why those measures and other measures remain in the budget, and I dare say we may hear more about this from the honourable member for Jagajaga. If you want people to forget that you're giving billions of dollars away to big business in Australia, maybe the way to do it is not to hide how much it's costing. That's what they're attempting to do: hide from pensioners and people across Australia how much they're giving away in corporate tax cuts. We know they know. Of course they know. The Treasurer is pretty incompetent, but I grant him this: he knows how much his corporate tax cuts cost, but he just won't tell the Australian people. Remember when they first introduced the corporate tax cuts and we asked them how much it costs over 10 years? It took a few goes. Eventually we found out it was $50 billion. Then, a year later, we had to ask again, and it was a bit easier. We found out it was $65 billion. We asked today, and it's back to being very hard to find out, because it's an embarrassing figure.

The other part of their plan to try to get the Australian people to forget all their policies which impact on workers, on pensioners and on recipients of government payments is to offer them a tax cut. They say, 'Look at this: we've got a tax cut for the Australian people.' When will the big tax cut take effect? In 2024. This is a Treasurer who last year stood at the dispatch box at the budget and, in all seriousness, very earnestly argued that Australians had to pay more tax. He told us that we had to pay more tax to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He told us that it was absolutely essential for every Australian who earns more than $21,000 to pay more income tax. Anybody who dared oppose the tax was told that they were being unreasonable, obstructionist, cynical and opportunistic. We were even told we were being un-Australian, just 12 months ago. Of course, this year the Treasurer pops up and says: 'You know all that stuff I said last year about a personal income tax rise? Scrub it. It's not necessary. We don't need it any more. Oops—got that wrong.'

This is the guy who tells us he knows what's going to happen in seven years time. He has a plan to give us a tax cut in seven years time, when he hasn't kept one policy from one budget to the other. Mr Deputy Speaker, I dare say that you don't know what you'll be doing in seven years time. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing in seven years time. I hope to be standing there! I've got a daughter who has just started high school. She'll hopefully be at uni in seven years time. I've got a son in primary school. He might be doing the HSC in seven years time. What we don't know is exactly what the budget or the economy will be doing in seven years time.

I must say that long-term planning and consistency from this government in economic policy isn't their strong point. The guys who want to bring in a tax cut in 2024 are the same guys who brought you state income taxes. That lasted not seven years but two days as government policy. They brought us the GST to pay for personal income tax cuts. That was a long-lived policy by this government's standards. That lasted six months. Now we're told they've got a plan which lasts for seven years, all on the basis of the Prime Minister being re-elected twice over that seven-year period. I'm not sure the member for Wentworth will be the leader of the Liberal Party in seven weeks, let alone seven years. But he's told us to trust him: they've got a seven-year plan.

But what does that seven-year plan cost? What do the different elements of that seven-year plan cost? Is anybody in the House any the wiser after an hour of question time as to what the seven-year plan costs? Talk about budget responsibility! How dare this parliament ask what the cost is of a plan that we were told, even as early as this morning, we should vote upon immediately? We should vote upon it; no questions asked. They've got a deal for us, they've got a deal for the Australian people, down at Malcolm and Scott's car yard: a tax cut in seven years. But don't ask for any details. Don't ask any tricky questions that involve numbers or dollar signs, because they don't want to tell us. Again, I give the Treasurer this much credit: he knows the answer. He just doesn't want to tell us, because the answer is not particularly convenient.

Of course, there are also tax cuts on 1 July this year. Somebody earning under $37,000 a year will receive $4 a week. Somebody earning between $48,000 and $90,000 a year will receive $10 a week. With wages growth at record lows, penalty rates being cut and somebody working on the weekend losing $77 a week and with private health insurance premiums going up and electricity costs going up, of course these tax cuts are warranted and of course they will be supported by this parliament. They'll be supported on that side of the House and on this side of the House. But I say this, Mr Deputy Speaker, through you: how about you put it to a vote? We want to see those tax cuts implemented and we put to you: why don't you let us vote on those tax cuts? We want to see those tax cuts delivered to the Australian people on 1 July. It would be an act of outrageous cynicism if you held those tax cuts hostage to your hoax of a tax cut in 2024. If you said, 'We won't give you a tax cut in 2018 because we can't get our plans for a tax cut in 2024 through the parliament, because the opposition, that terrible pesky opposition, dares to ask questions about the tax cuts.'

I note they are doing it through a rebate—the low- and middle-income earners tax rebate. I note in passing that, in the budget, that rebate is non-refundable. A non-refundable rebate is being introduced into the tax system. You can get your tax bill down to zero, but you can't get tax refunds after that. It is a principle which is consistent through the tax act, with one exception: dividend imputation. It's good enough for low-income earners and good enough for middle-income earners to have a non-refundable rebate, but for those people on a high incomes, who don't pay income tax, they must get a refundable tax concession. They must get cheques, even if they haven't paid income tax. That says it all about the priorities of this government.

The bravado of the government, which says that they will provide tax cuts in 2024 as their big economic answer, is that they talk of implementing those tax cuts when they won't tell the Australian people the cost and while proceeding with the plan to make Australians work until they're 70. I gave the Treasurer a bit of credit before, saying he would know the answer in relation to the cost of the tax cuts. But that's where my generosity ends, I have to say, because an important part of this debate is the government's plan to make Australians work until they're 70—

Mr Howarth: Rubbish!

Mr BOWEN: The Treasurer didn't say it was rubbish last night when he was asked about the plan to make Australians work until they're 70—which has been in the budget papers since 2014 and is still in the budget. The Treasurer was asked last night about the plan to make Australians work until they're 70, and he said—wait for it—'But that doesn't happen for 35 years. That plan doesn't get implemented for the next 35 years.' But it starts in 2025. That's not 35 years away. The Treasurer doesn't know the impact of his own policies. He thinks they're not going to make this policy work for 35 years when, in fact, it is working in 2025 and will be fully implemented a few years after that. The pension age is going up on your watch, and not in 35 years time. It starts going up in 2025. That is not 35 years away. I tell you what, Mr Deputy Speaker: there are a lot of inconsistencies, a lot that is illogical, and a lot of unfairness in this budget. That's been the hallmark of all the budgets since 2014; since that famous Joe Hockey budget in 2014—

An opposition member: That's the one!

Mr BOWEN: That's the one! And it's still alive in 2018. It lives, it lives, Mr Deputy Speaker! And just as we defeated that budget, we will defeat you at the next election. (Time expired)