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Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Page: 3399

Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (11:20): Here we are engaged in a race to the bottom between the coalition and the Labor Party on personal tax cuts. Anyone would think there's an election in the air—oh wait; there is an election in the air. Within 12 months the Australian voters are going to be choosing who they want to represent them in this place, to be their government, and—surprise, surprise!—the Labor Party and the coalition are engaged in a race to the bottom on tax cuts. This debate at its heart is about what sort of country we want to be. I'm so proud that the Australian Greens senators are the only ones in this place standing up against this unholy race to the bottom on tax cuts and standing up instead for increasing the funding and quality of essential public services in this country: schools, hospitals and public transport; support for people with disabilities; funding for the environment, the fight against climate change, and threatened species; and funding for productive, long-term infrastructure for this country. The Australian Greens want both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party to properly fund those things, not this race to the bottom on tax cuts, which is designed solely to try to solicit votes at the upcoming election.

Over the last two decades in this country there has been a deliberate attempt by the Labor and Liberal parties to pull apart our society. Economic inequality has massively grown because of decisions made by both the Labor and Liberal parties. Taxes have been cut for the big corporate donors to the Labor and Liberal parties. Personal income tax has been slashed, especially for the wealthiest people, while Newstart, which is supporting the people doing it toughest financially, has not been raised for a generation—nearly 25 years. There has been a transfer of wealth from the less well-off to the most well-off, and now the Labor and Liberal parties are proposing to transfer yet more wealth, via these tax cuts, from people doing it tough to people who already have more than their fair share of our national wealth.

There's a stark choice facing the Australian people and this parliament at the moment. On one hand we can continue to run down our schools, hospitals and essential public services; on the other hand we can stand up for increasing the funding and quality of our essential public services. On one hand Labor and Liberal, neither of whom support raising Newstart, can continue to punish the poor to reward the rich; on the other hand the Australian Greens will stand up for people on Newstart. We want Newstart to be increased by $75 a week to give people a fair crack at rebuilding their lives and to help them avoid those impossible choices between putting food on the table, paying the school levies or paying the power bills. We can rebuild our Australian society in line with the values of looking after people doing it tough and of funding an increase in the quality of essential public services, or we can continue in a race to the bottom on tax cuts.

I want to say something to the people of Braddon, who are facing this choice in their upcoming by-election. The choice for the people of Braddon is clear. They could vote for a tax cut that redistributes wealth from those at the bottom to those who already have more than their fair share. Remember, stage 1 of this tax plan will give a tax cut to people who earn $120,000 a year. That means that, if you're in a household with two people lucky enough to be earning 120 grand a year—that is a household that earns in the region of a quarter of a million dollars a year—that household is going to get a tax cut, but the people of Braddon on Newstart are being offered nothing by the Labor and Liberal parties, so they've got a choice. Either they can vote for a candidate—Jarrod Edwards, an outstanding Greens candidate in Braddon—who knows what it's like to do it tough, who was raised in a family on welfare, who knows what it's like to live on Struggle Street, who's campaigning strongly for a legislated increase in the minimum wage and a legislated increase in Newstart, or they can vote for Labor or Liberal candidates who want to give a tax cut to people on $120,000 a year. That's the choice facing the people of Braddon. I urge them to support Jarrod Edwards, the Australian Greens candidate, as the only candidate taking a policy to this election to increase Newstart.

Of course, that would provide a significant economic benefit to Braddon, which sorely needs it. With an increase in Newstart and with an increase in the minimum wage, you would see cash starting to flow more freely through the economy of Braddon, which would help businesses in Braddon—everything from small businesses in the corner shops to small businesses in the manufacturing sector, to people on farms and right through the economy of the north-west coast of Tasmania. The choice for the people of Braddon is very clear. You can vote for Jarrod Edwards and the Australian Greens for an increase in the minimum wage and an increase in Newstart, or you can vote for your Labor or Liberal candidates and vote to give tax cuts to people on $120,000 a year.