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Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Page: 3384


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (10:07): I rise today to contribute to this debate on a tax cut for millionaires, put forward, of course, by the Turnbull government. The whole essence of this debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill rests on what types of priorities we have in this place and on what types of priorities we have for the nation. On one side we have the Turnbull government wanting to spend hundreds of billions of dollars—taxpayers' money—in tax cuts for the big end of town, in addition to the tax cuts they've already flagged and have tried to push through this place already in relation to corporate Australia and the big banks. Malcolm Turnbull's priority is to look after the big end of town—to look after the corporates, the big banks and rich, wealthy Australians. Meanwhile, everybody else is going to cop a cut in access to public services.

That is the choice here. It's about priorities. Malcolm Turnbull wants to fund the billionaires and the big banks but those of us trying to stop these tax cuts from going through are asking: 'What happens when regular Australians need to go to hospital? What happens when someone's kid is sick? What happens when you rock up to school and you realise your public school is charging families school fees up to $4,000 to send their children to public schools, because we don't have money for the education system? What happens when a mother can't go back to work because childcare is too expensive?' These are the choices that we are being presented with in this bill today.

The government can only spend and invest money based on what it collects. We know that we don't just have a tax problem here. We have a problem with collecting the right amount of tax, because tax avoidance in this country, particularly from the big end of town, is rife. If you're a big corporate bank and if you're in corporate Australia, you can find many, many ways to reduce your taxable income. If you're a rich Australian, you can find the best accountant in the country to make sure you pay no tax at all. Meanwhile, average Australians are struggling day by day, and they rely on public essential services right around the country.

If you collect less tax as a government, you're going to have less money to spend on public services. If we have less revenue, that fundamentally undermines the ability of governments to do what they need to do, and that is to underpin essential services that are available to everybody—schools, hospitals and the broader health system—and to ensure that, if you lose your job and you're on unemployment benefits, Newstart payments are enough to live on so you can be supported until you get another job, not punished by living on less than $40 a day just because this government wants to prioritise giving millionaires $7,000 back. That's what's on the table here. Someone on an average income is perhaps, if they're lucky, going to get around $200 in a tax cut. And yet the wealthy Australians, the millionaires and, in fact, the politicians—those of us in this place—will get $7,000 out of this. That must be pretty galling to people out there listening to this debate.

We're told by the neoliberals on the other side that, despite being a wealthy nation, we can't afford things like proper funding of hospitals, or to ensure our elderly are taken care of in their aged-care homes, or for schools to be funded properly so parents don't have to fork out thousands of dollars just to send their kid to a public school. We're told we can't afford these things, and yet hundreds of billions of dollars in this package today are going to roll out the door in election bribes by this government.

The neoliberals on the other side have done a very good job at trying to hoodwink the Australian people. Although we are a very wealthy country, the neoliberals have done everything they can to undermine and run public essential services into the ground. They want to give people a false choice: you can choose between Malcolm Turnbull's handout to millionaires or you can choose to fund public services. Spending, of course, is all about priorities, so is revenue and so is where we collect our revenue from. This government finds many, many ways to undermine the bare collection of revenue, because they don't want to upset their big mates in the banks, in corporate Australia or, indeed, in the rich end of town. This government says to average Australians and those who are struggling living on the median wage: 'We can't afford to help you, if you fall through the cracks. It's 40 bucks a day from Newstart if you lose your job. Suck it up.' No. That is not a choice we should be forcing Australians to make.

If you turn up to university in this country, you should be able to access a good-quality education, regardless of how much money is in your parents' bank account and regardless of what private or public school you may have attended. We need more young people, not fewer, being able to access good-quality higher education, whether it's through universities or the TAFE sector. That means we have to fund education properly. We have to make it available and accessible for all, not just for those whose parents are on the top of the rich list and are going to bank a $7,000 tax cut out of this and their kids will be okay. We need all Australian children to access good-quality education and know from a very early age that if they want to go on to university or TAFE they'll be supported in doing so. We should make that a guarantee. Every Australian child should know that if they want to get a higher education they can get one; they shouldn't have to be in the top income bracket to do it.

This is what making government spending priorities is all about. Australians overwhelmingly know that the trade-off, or the dividend, of paying their taxes should be good quality public services. Australians don't mind paying tax if it means having good quality schools and being able to access the emergency ward in the hospital if someone falls over and breaks their hip or if a child is sick in the middle of the night. Australians don't mind paying taxes if they know that they're going to go to a well-funded NDIS. Australians don't mind paying their taxes if they're going to have a strong Medicare safety net. Australians know that being part of a decent democratic society is all about having the people who can afford to pay a bit more pay a bit more so that those who are struggling can be helped to get back on their feet.

A progressive taxation system is essential for the fair and decent society that we are all proud to live in here in Australia. That is under attack from this legislation and agenda of the government because all they care about is looking after the big banks, the rich end of town and Malcolm Turnbull's mates. If the Prime Minister really cared about productivity growth in this country, he'd fund child care properly so that more women were actively supported to go back to work. But what we will see come 2 July is a bunch of families losing access to their childcare support, particularly those families where both parents struggle to be in the workforce.

The absolute lunacy of this tax bill is that it spends hundreds of billions of dollars as an election bribe, yet the majority of Australians who work hard every day and those who struggle to get into the workforce, those on unemployment benefits, really get nothing from this. No wonder Malcolm Turnbull's mates want this to pass, because they're going to bank $7,000 from it. Meanwhile, average Australians and the rest of the country will lose out because hospital waiting lists will grow, because school fees will rise and because our older Australians will continue to suffer in old aged-care homes.

Look at my home state of South Australia. We know that the overwhelming majority of the tax cuts outlined in this bill are going to go to those who are already the most well-off, those who are earning well above $120,000 a year. That's about five per cent of South Australians. So five per cent of South Australians might get something out of this, but 95 per cent of South Australians will get very little. In fact, there will be a double whammy because our state relies significantly on well-funded essential public services. As a result of this priority choice by this government to fund the rich and cut services most South Australians will lose out. By the time the full impact of these tax cuts is realised, South Australia will be losing around $2 billion from essential services—that's cuts to schools, that's cuts to hospitals and that's cuts to other essential services. Bad luck if you need to put your kid in child care so that you can take an extra day of work a week. You won't be able to afford it, because the Turnbull government isn't going to be able to fund child care in this country.

Our universities and TAFEs are going to lose funding. They'll be $105 million worse off. We'll lose $305 million in spending on hospitals and health care. We can't afford that. We have an ageing population, particularly in South Australia, and we want to make sure our older Australians are looked after with dignity and with care. Yet the government is going to slash $305 million in funding used to support essential health care in South Australia.

We'll lose $905 million on pensions and payments, and this is a very clear message to the people of Mayo—those South Australians who live in the Adelaide Hills and down along the Fleurieu Peninsula down to Victor Harbor. This tax cut for Malcolm Turnbull's mates is going to cost age pensioners and other recipients of government funding almost a billion dollars! How are we going to look after our aged and elderly Australians if we don't have the money to fund it? But who will be laughing? It'll be Malcolm Turnbull's mates, who are banking $7,000 a year. I guess that's a nice overseas holiday.

The government says: 'Look, don't worry about it. Everyone'll be paying less tax.' The reality is most Australians rely on public services to ensure that we can get through our daily lives. We all respect our well-funded public hospitals and health system. We all know that we need a public education system to ensure that there is a proper safety net, to ensure that our kids can go to school and get a good education, regardless of whether their parents have a job at the time or how much money their parents have in their bank account. In South Australia, these tax cuts mean that for every dollar that is given in a tax cut, South Australians are going to lose $1.40 in public services. On anyone's maths, that's a lose-lose.

South Australia loses massively in this bill, and that's a message I have for the members of Centre Alliance here today. Don't buy this government furphy. You've got a choice here: tax cuts for millionaires and Malcolm Turnbull's mates, or funding for South Australian schools, hospitals and services. As one of the smaller states and as one of the states with the lowest number of high-income earners in the country, South Australia loses out significantly under this bill. As a South Australian senator, I'm standing here today to say: do not risk it. Do not buy the furphy that you have to hand politicians a $7,000 tax cut in order to make everybody else feel okay. We don't need the $7,000 tax cut. What we need is more money for schools, more money to cut hospital waiting lists, and more money to ensure that working mums and dads in the electorate of Mayo actually can access well-funded child care. That's what we want the government to prioritise.

I say to the Centre Alliance members in this place today: don't buy the lie that you should just tick this tax cut through. Does anyone really believe that if we start giving tax cuts to the big end of town, to politicians, to Malcolm Turnbull's millionaire mates—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Kitching ): Senator Hanson-Young, I will remind you—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does anyone believe if we start giving tax cuts to the big end of town, to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's millionaire mates, that anyone is going to come in here after the next election and rescind any of this? I don't believe the Labor Party's going to do that, and I certainly don't believe the Liberal Party will ever do that. Don't be fooled, I say to senators Griff and Patrick of the Centre Alliance. Once this tax cut is in, it will stay. Don't risk it.

On that, I want to point out the sheer hypocrisy of Pauline Hanson and One Nation in relation to all of this.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson-Young, again, if you could—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I think it's absolutely important to understand the sheer hypocrisy of the One Nation party, led by Senator Hanson. Supporting this bill means supporting rich Australians, millionaires, and doing nothing for those battling on average incomes. This gives money to the richest and wealthiest Australians at the expense of funding for the age pension and funding for hospitals. This final stage of the tax cut does absolutely nothing for 60 per cent of taxpayers in this country. We have Senator Hanson snuggling up to the government again, selling out the majority of Australians—all of her voters—to tick off on what is going to be the biggest tax cut given to millionaires in a long, long time. Senator Pauline Hanson is going to vote for this bill to give herself a $7,000 tax cut! What a grub! What a sneaky, sneaky move! What a sellout!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson-Young, I would remind you of the standing orders. Perhaps 'grub' was not particularly parliamentary. I'd ask you to withdraw that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I withdraw calling Senator Pauline Hanson a grub. I'll replace it: Senator Pauline Hanson is going to come into this place to vote to give herself a $7,000 tax cut—sheer hypocrisy! What an absolute sellout!

This tax cut will do nothing to lift wages. We know we have a wage-growth issue in this country. This tax cut will do nothing to help people on Newstart or, indeed, the minimum wage. What this proves, and what Senator Pauline Hanson and One Nation's deal with the government proves, is that they're all about feathering their own nests and doing nothing to help regular Australians!