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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3183


Senator WATT (Queensland) (21:56): This week I suspect that overall the time in this chamber is mostly going to be spent debating various different proposals around tax cuts. I thought it was important to take the opportunity, before that debate gets underway, to highlight the very real impacts that the different proposals around tax cuts would have on a number of areas, particularly in regional Queensland. It is something that I have spent quite a bit of time on over the last couple of weeks, getting out and around regional Queensland and highlighting the very different impacts that the government's proposals on tax cuts will have depending on whether you live in regional Queensland or in one of Australia's big cities, particularly in wealthier suburbs. It won't surprise people who have followed the actions of this government over the last couple of years that, in line with what they have done on school funding, health funding, penalty rates and a whole range of other issues, this government with tax cuts is yet again taking the opportunity to push ahead high-income earners, particularly in urban parts of Australia, at the expense of regional Australians and regional Queenslanders in particular.

When you look at the government's tax plan in overall terms and roll it out across all electorates, particularly stage 3 of its tax cuts, which would see someone earning $200,000 a year pay the same rate of tax as someone earning $50,000 a year, you see that it very much discriminates against poorer electorates or even electorates dominated by middle-income earners, let alone working-class or poorer people in our communities. On top of that, it gives the biggest tax cuts to the wealthiest electorates around Australia, which I would argue in many cases don't need a leg-up from the government.

When you look at data released by the independent Australia Institute over the last week, you will find that three of the 10 electorates in Australia that will benefit least from, get a below-average tax cut from and be worst impacted by the government's proposed plan are in Queensland: the electorate of Hinkler, centred around Bundaberg and the Fraser Coast; the electorate of Wide Bay, also on the Fraser Coast; and the electorate of Longman, on Brisbane's northern outskirts around Caboolture. In fact Hinkler is the electorate which will get the second worst deal in the country from the government's proposals. Voters in the electorate of Hinkler will receive 71 per cent of the average benefit going to every household across Australia. Put another way, if you think about the government providing a dollar in tax cuts to an average household somewhere in Australia, a household in Hinkler in Queensland will only get 71c for that dollar that is going to an average household.

If you look at regional Queensland as a whole, all the federal electorates in regional Queensland will get a below-average tax cut from this government's proposals. In fact, every single electorate that is held in Queensland by a National Party aligned member of parliament will get a below-average tax cut. The electorates of Hinkler, Wide Bay, Maranoa, Capricornia, Flynn and Dawson—every single one of those electorates is held by a National Party aligned member of parliament and every single one of those electorates is going to get a tax cut below the national average from the government's proposals. Despite that, every single one of those National Party aligned members has actually voted for these tax cuts. They have voted to give their own voters a below-average tax cut, all to help other people.

Who does it actually help? The electorate in the country that will most benefit from these tax cuts is not in regional Queensland. It's not in Caboolture. It's not on the northern outskirts of Brisbane. It's not on the suburban fringes of any of our big cities. It's of course the Prime Minister's own electorate of Wentworth, the wealthy harbourside electorate in Sydney, which will get 192 per cent of the average tax cut going to households across Australia. Nearly double the national average tax cut is going to go to the Prime Minister's own voters in the electorate of Wentworth. Who is paying for it? It is those regional Queenslanders in electorates represented by the National Party, who are being let down yet again by their members of parliament who come down to Canberra, get their instructions from the Prime Minister and his Liberal Party mates and sell out their own voters back in regional Queensland. We have seen them do it over and over again on service cuts, with money cut by this government to regional hospitals, regional schools, regional TAFEs, apprenticeships in our regions and pensions to regional Queenslanders.

Time and time again this government has got its hand in the pocket of regional Queensland, ripping money out, all to shovel it to big business and banks in the form of a big tax cut and now to high-income earners as well. Over and over again, we have National Party aligned members of parliament in regional Queensland vote against the interests of their constituents to rip them off and rip billions of dollars out of their schools, hospitals, TAFEs and training to prop up tax cuts to the top end of town. They are about to do it again in backing in tax cuts for high-income earners in electorates such as the Prime Minister's own in Sydney. When will these National Party MPs actually start to stand up for their electorates and say: 'Enough is enough. We're not going to keep backing in these Liberal Party demands to help out their constituents. We are actually going to stand up for our own people. We are actually going to demand a fair tax cut for our residents, who are mostly low- and middle-income earners. We are going to demand better funding for our schools, hospitals, TAFEs and pensioners. We've had enough of cuts in our areas to provide bigger tax cuts to big business and high-income earners, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne'?

There is a plan that's available for these National Party MPs to vote for which actually would advantage voters in their own electorates, and that is the plan Labor is putting forward. Labor will be moving amendments which would see everyone earning under $125,000 a year, which does include most people in regional Queensland, be better off. In every one of those electorates that I named, all of those National Party electorates in Queensland, between 70 per cent and 75 per cent of taxpayers would be better off and get a better tax cut under Labor's plan than what their own National Party MPs have already voted for. But it's not too late. This week, these National Party MPs have the opportunity to make amends by getting their National Party senators here in this place to vote for Labor's amendments, to split the bill and to make sure the tax cuts do go ahead for low- and middle-income earners, particularly in regional Queensland. Let's stop this nonsense about giving massive tax cuts to the ultrawealthy in Sydney and Melbourne.

This debate we are going to be having this week on these tax cuts provides a test for another group in this parliament as well, and that is the remaining One Nation senators. There are only two left. We know from the events over the last couple of weeks that they are coming apart at the seams. They have lost senator after senator after senator. They as a political party are barely existing. They have a massive credibility issue hanging over their heads as we enter this week talking about tax cuts.

I've obviously been at pains to explain to the Australian people the number of times that One Nation senators have sold out battlers, particularly in Queensland, by supporting the government on penalty rate cuts, on cuts to pensions, on cuts to apprenticeships—on cuts to a whole range of things. But this is probably the biggest test that the One Nation senators have yet faced in this chamber. They are going to have to make a decision this week about whether they are going to back in the government's plans to deliver tax cuts to high-income earners, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, and to back in tax cuts for big business, in particular the big banks, at the expense of working people and battlers back in regional Queensland. We will know once and for all which side Senator Hanson and Senator Georgiou, the remaining two One Nation senators, are on. Are they on the side of battlers, or are they actually on the side of billionaires down in the Prime Minister's own electorate of Wentworth?

This will be a very important test for them, especially as we run up to the Longman by-election, where One Nation are standing a candidate. Not only will they be tested this week about how they are going to vote on this tax legislation but they're also going to be tested when it comes to deciding where they're going to allocate their preferences for this by-election. If One Nation, as they so often do, direct their preferences to the LNP in Longman, what they are effectively saying is that they are going to support another government member who will come in here and continue to support tax cuts for big business, tax cuts for high-income earners and cuts to services that battlers depend upon. If, on the other hand, One Nation decide to leave their preferences open and leave it to voters to make their own decision, that is a matter then for voters to decide. One Nation have got to decide: are they for battlers or billionaires? Are they for the LNP or Independents? (Time expired)