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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 74


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (17:44): The first thing I want to say is that Labor will support this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018. It will extend, for another year, a measure first introduced in the 2015 budget—which was described then as Tony's tradies' budget—which allows small businesses to immediately deduct purchases of assets they start to use or install ready for use that cost less than $20,000. Over the forward estimates, the measure will cost $350 million.

Labor supported the initial measure, which went from 12 May 2015 to 30 June 2017, and Labor supported the measure when it was extended for another year to 30 June 2018 in last year's budget. It's also a good reminder that it was Labor in government that originally recognised the value of an increased immediate deductibility threshold for small business entities. Labor successfully increased the threshold from $1,000 to $6,500, as part of a broad package of tax reforms contained in the Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011. Labor subsequently opposed the Abbott government's decrease in the threshold from $6,500 to $1,000 announced in the 2014-15 budget.

Remember the 2014-15 budget—that disaster of a budget from a disastrous government and a disastrous Prime Minister? It cut family tax benefits, cut health, cut education—cut everything that ordinary working-class people relied on to get a decent life in this country. That's what the 2014-15 budget was about. It cut funding for housing; it cut funding for homelessness—it was an austerity budget that was so cruel, from that rabble of a government. It hasn't got any better, has it? Has it really got any better under this government?

So what have we had? We've had Prime Minister Abbott knifed. We've had Prime Minister Turnbull knifed. And we've got Prime Minister Morrison, who will get knifed—we know that, don't we? We know that he's going to get knifed next. What did we have the other week? We had the bullies out there doorknocking. Knock, knock. 'Who's there?' 'It's Senator Paterson. I'm the enforcer, with my little pink list. You've got to sign the list.' Remember that? It was only a couple of weeks ago. They all started laughing when they opened the door and saw who the enforcer was. He's not much of an enforcer. No wonder you couldn't get the numbers when Senator Paterson's your enforcer! What a joke—Senator Paterson the enforcer! My goodness! The baby-faced assassin! There was that 2014-15 budget, and then the nonsense we had here. What a pair of book ends. You had an austerity budget, and then you knifed your second Prime Minister.

We were unsuccessful with our opposition to the measure. But, as mentioned earlier, with the 2015 budget, the government saw the light. And Labor has supported the government's measure since that time.

We know that these types of measures provide a tangible benefit to businesses and their investment plans. It's why, earlier this year, Labor announced the Australian investment guarantee, which will allow all businesses to immediately write off 20 per cent of all their new investments in tangible and intangible assets in the first year, with the balance depreciated in line with normal depreciation schedules from the first year. This will improve cash flow, making more attractive those marginal projects that otherwise may not get off the ground.

Our Australian investment guarantee will drive new investment in plant, machinery and equipment, but it will also drive investment in knowledge assets, supporting new investments in the new economy that embody more innovation and human capital—from firms expanding the capacity of their factories in outer-metropolitan areas and farmers wanting to buy the most sophisticated trucks and machinery in regional areas to advanced manufacturers wanting to upgrade their computerised technology in Australia's cities. Our policies will support them.

Take, for instance, a food manufacturer operating in regional Australia, a company that wants to spend $6 million upgrading to new energy-efficient freezers to ensure it can store its growing stock of food. Our plan would help deliver the investment because it would deliver an immediate cash flow of $1.2 million, money that could be used to hire new employees and continue their business development in Asia. Not only would this company get the instant cash flow benefit but the new freezer equipment would help reduce the carbon emissions intensity of the production process by 33 per cent and, due to the improved energy efficiency, would result in savings of up to $500,000 in energy costs.

As soon as you talk about energy efficiency or reducing carbon pollution, you can see that mob on the other side squirm—those who would knife their Prime Minister, those who would just attack a Prime Minister and those who would demolish the NEG. You know the NEG that was going to save everybody so much money, the NEG that was so clever, the NEG that was passed in the party room twice? Do you remember that? It's gone as well. That's because the extremists, the climate change deniers, the loopy deniers on the other side wouldn't let it go through, and they knifed another Prime Minister because that Prime Minister dared to have some common sense about how to deal with climate change in this country.

Recent modelling by the University of Victoria shows that, compared to a straight cut in the company tax rate, an investment concession like Labor's investment guarantee would actually be up to three times more effective as a stimulus to investment. The most growth-enhancing part of the United States's tax package is the immediate expensing element. Drawing on IMF analysis, Saul Eslake has pointed out that, in relation to the US tax plan, the thing that's providing the boost is not the company tax rate; it is the immediate expensing of investment. This mob sitting across from us, the muppet show that we've got across there—even their own leader describes them as a 'muppet show'—went from pushing $80 billion of tax cuts for big business to capitulating on that. They've never had an economic idea that has lasted more than a few months. They are absolutely incompetent and an absolute rabble of a government. The sooner they get to an election and the people of Australia decide on their incompetence the better.

Our plan is a real plan. It's permanent and won't be subject to annual budget cycles like the government's instant asset write-off. The government's corporate tax cut does not guarantee any new investment for each budget dollar spent. Ours does. Their corporate tax cut can go directly to paying for share buybacks and dividend increases either here or offshore, not new investment. Our measure, Labor's measure, has been supported by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In their pre-budget submission, they called for more incentives for business to invest, specifically arguing:

… the government should adopt the Opposition's proposed enhancements to accelerated depreciation.

Their mates in ACCI are telling them to adopt Labor's policy. The business groups in this country must be aghast at the incompetence of the muppet show across the chamber. They must be aghast at the lack of economic credibility. They must be aghast at the incompetence of a government that can't focus on the needs of the Australian public, the needs of Australian business, the needs of Australian workers. All they want to do is focus on each other and knife each other.

This new cabinet that's in place must be a really happy place to be. They're probably looking around to see who's got the little Australian lapel badge on, to see whose side they're on. What a joke this muppet of a government is. I see the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports Labor's policy more than any failed Liberal policy. ACCI CEO James Pearson said:

"Business welcomes this commitment from the Opposition—it's good policy …

"What's particularly positive is the proposal to make this a permanent feature.

"This is important as policy certainty and policy consistency is critical for business.

Do you hear that? This is what your mates are saying. They want policy certainty. They want policy consistency. They don't want a NEG going to the party room, getting passed twice, and then the extremists in the party destroying a Prime Minister and destroying your now Deputy Prime Minister's policy. What a joke you are. No wonder your own leader called you the muppets. No wonder. He's probably trying to be kind to you lot. Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said:

The Investment Guarantee would provide a significant boost for businesses to invest particularly for longer-lived investments.

The proposed measure comes at a time when business investment, and particularly non-mining investment, has been slow to recover in recent years.

As a measure designed to lift investment, the Investment Guarantee would increase the stock of invested capital, boost the quantity of capital per worker, raise productivity and underwrite an acceleration of real wage growth.

Again, your mate at the AiG, Innes Willox, recognises the superiority of the Australian Labor Party's policy, because the Australian Labor Party is focusing on business. The Australian Labor Party is focusing on working families. The Australian Labor Party is focusing on those who need a hand up in this country.

We're not focusing on knifing each other and being described by our own leader as muppets. We're not doing that. We're not a rabble like you lot are over there. You're an absolute rabble of a government, a government with no credibility, no standing in the community, no capacity to deliver economic policy, no capacity to deliver environmental policy and no capacity to deliver decent rights for working people at work. What a joke you lot are. What an absolute joke.

It is absolutely clear that even the National Party want to distance themselves. When the Deputy Leader of The Nationals was asked, 'Why did you knife the Prime Minister? What was the reason for this?' she couldn't answer, because she doesn't want to associate herself with the extremists. The National Party don't want to associate themselves with the Liberal Party. Look at what happened in Wagga Wagga when you took the name Liberal and ran with the name Liberal in what was one of the safest seats in the state assembly. Decimated. Absolutely decimated. It's a 30 per cent reduction in where you were from the previous election. This is a government that is absolutely chaotic.

The Energy Efficiency Council said this about Labor's policy:

A new Federal Labor policy that gives an immediate tax deduction to businesses that invest in energy saving equipment would help slash energy bills …

We've actually got something that will help slash energy bills. The Energy Efficiency Council recognises it. The AiG recognises it. ACCI recognises it. The only people who don't recognise it are the muppets across the chamber, who are so busy fighting each other, worrying about each other's position and not worrying about business, not worrying about the community, not worrying about Australia's economic capacity.

Ken Morrison, the Property Council of Australia chief executive, says:

… the Australian Investment Guarantee would be a powerful tool for accelerating energy efficiency gains across different industries, but especially in the built environment.

He says:

We welcome Federal Labor's announcement of this policy and the potential it has to help reduce costs for consumers.

So, there's another businessperson. Businesspeople know who are focusing on the real issues: Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen. They are focused on the issues that are important to the Australian community, focused on the issues that are important to working families, focused on the issues that are important for people who are down and out and are needing help in this country.

We know what it's about. Even Peter Strong from COSBOA, one of the biggest apologists for the Liberal Party in the business community, says:

Labor's announcement is a welcome one as it would make it easier for Australian businesses to invest and grow. The fact that this measure is available to all businesses, big and small, is also very positive as it will help small businesses directly as well as encouraging larger businesses to invest in the products sold by small business.

So, even your cheerleader in small business recognises that Labor's policy is the policy to go with.

Tanya Barden, Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO, says:

This initiative will go a long way to encouraging investment in high tech and high skilled projects to enhance efficiency and increase scale. We are particularly supportive of the Australian Investment Guarantee's inclusiveness across the industry sector. The opportunity to use this Investment Guarantee towards energy saving projects is also very important.

So, Labor will support this bill. It's disappointing that this chaotic government, this government that their own leader describes as the muppets, could not get its act together to have this legislated sooner, to give certainty to small businesses.

Business recognises the need for certainty. If business looks at the disgraceful performance of this government—and I put the word 'government' in inverted commas when I'm talking about the muppets—this is a group of people who are only interested in looking after themselves, in knifing each other in the back; they are not interested in the welfare of our industries or of our communities. They are completely distracted. They are in there, bullying each other, when the knock comes on the door from Senator Paterson, the baby-faced enforcer.

What's this all about? This should be a government that actually understands the issues of importance to the Australian community. Remember how they were going to be the grown-ups in the room? Remember that? Do you remember that they were going to be an effective government? Well, they are hopeless. No wonder your current leader calls you the muppets. It doesn't matter whether or not you've got a little Australian flag badge on your lapel; if you're a muppet you're a muppet. It doesn't really matter. Why should any politician have to wear a badge to tell them who they should be supporting? You don't need a badge to support the Australian community. You don't need a badge to support Australian industry. You need common sense. You need cohesion. You need leadership. You need to deal with the real issues—something the muppets across this chamber will never get. The sooner we get to an election and the sooner you lot are consigned to the bins of history, the better.