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Thursday, 18 October 2018
Page: 13


Senator STORER (South Australia) (11:07): I want to reflect on this bill in terms of the amendments that are being put regarding the TPP-11 and in terms of the process of the passing of notice of motion this morning. In terms of that process, I think it's disappointing that there will be a cut-off of debate of this bill, and of the following bill, at 11.45. This does not accord with the discussion that happened regarding the personal income tax legislation in May. There was a lot of grievance held by the Labor Party with regard to that gag motion on that day, and I didn't get to speak on my amendment on that day as well.

I am a supporter of measures that increase opportunities for trade and commerce between Australia and the rest of the world, but I have significant concerns regarding the economic benefit of the legislation that was passed yesterday in terms of the lack of independent modelling of it and the likelihood of an overall positive outcome of Australia's involvement in that agreement. There are significant concerns regarding the ISDS and I see that they're reflected in the amendments that certainly will be put at 11.45 in regard to this bill itself.

The ISDS has significant issues that have been eloquently discussed by speakers here yesterday and the previous days. I am very concerned about the lack of independent analysis of the potential impacts on the Australian labour market of the removal of labour market testing for temporary migrant workers from those TPP-11 countries. I will certainly be looking very carefully at the amendments to be made regarding this bill and then the overall economic situation that Australia is in. That's important in terms of other legislation that will be looked at in this place.

As I mentioned yesterday, even former Treasurer Peter Costello has noted the concern regarding the government debt. He noted that overall net debt was so high that he thought he would be dead before it was paid off. Yet with regard to the intention to bring forward the company tax cuts for companies with a turnover of $50 million, the Treasurer has revealed that there will be no savings to match the estimated cost of $3.2 billion over the forward estimates. At least the Labor Party have announced that it would help meet this cost by delaying the implementation of its Australian investment guarantee legislation.

The last time this discussion of company tax was before the Senate, I opposed it based on the best evidence to date, which found that the corporate tax cuts already in place have had little impact on wages and a small effect on jobs and investment. I found this out from the AlphaBeta Advisors review of the 2014 tax cuts for companies of under $2 million. They found that there was a marginal increase in employment versus the increase for firms above that threshold, where there was a limited increase in wages and there was a slight increase in investment. It seems to me, in regard to Australia's desire for economic growth, jobs and wages, that there would alternative, wiser initiatives that could be done—for example, an instant access tax write-off, an expansion of R&D concessions that were limited in the last budget or spending more on infrastructure, which the ministers have indicated creates a significant increase in GDP and a longstanding benefit.

There are also issues, in terms of analysis by Deloitte Access Economics, regarding a significant increase to Newstart and related payments that would deliver a prosperity dividend of $4 billion to the Australian economy, as well as having a very tightly targeted fairness impact, with the overwhelming bulk of the relevant increase in disposable incomes going to Australia's lowest-income families. I think that legislation, such as that which will be dealt with, is piecemeal and narrow. We should be looking at a more broad-based tax reform. We had the Henry review with its seven principal feature reforms pass 10 years ago, yet we're only dealing with one of those principal features and we have the architecture in place for it.

With regard to this bill, I will certainly be looking very carefully at the amendments and also the other bills in terms of what is in the best interests of Australia's overall economic situation and for the people and the taxpayers who we serve.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR ( Senator Sterle ): Just before I do pass on the call, I wish to deal with Senator Patrick's amendment that is in front of us. Hence, that's why I call Senator Hanson. Senator Hanson, did you wish to ask questions around this amendment?