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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2419

Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (15:15): As I rise to take note of answers, I remind the good senator, Senator Paterson, that this debate is about taking note of an answer provided by a minister, in this case the Minister for Finance. A lot of Senator Paterson's contribution today was about attacking the Labor Party. I can see why he may have wanted to use up his time in the debate to do that, because I'm sure he would have been embarrassed by the answer that was given by the finance minister today to the question that was asked of him. It was an interesting answer that he gave today. He continued to persist with this belief that the government's $65 billion gift to big business will create jobs and lead to higher wages, despite all the evidence to the contrary. I simply can't understand how the members of the government continue with such complete certainty, when so much research and commentary and now even the Business Council's very own words—or, should I say, lack of words—contradict them.

The government tried to say that they are sure that their cash handout to big business will create jobs and result in higher wages, but do you know who isn't so sure? Big business. Surely, if you're going to go ahead and give away $65 billion of taxpayers' money, you'd want to make sure you get something in return. But, no, the government are pushing ahead anyway. They're determined to see this handout happen, no matter what the result. They're certain that $65 billion to big business will be good for the economy. But, if so, why wasn't the Business Council willing to make that commitment to the government? Why is it that the leaked letter that Senator Wong tabled here today—about which they shut down debate in the House of Representatives only hours ago—clearly shows us a before and an after? It shows a 'before letter', with a proposed commitment to create jobs, invest in Australia and pay tax, and an 'after letter', with none of those commitments included. It simply beggars belief that the government refuse to understand this.

After the leaking of a letter as plain as this, the finance minister should have been in front of the media, hat in hand, apologising to the Australian people and asking them to forget the whole thing and act like he'd never even tried to give away the public's money. Yet, somehow, the government continue to remain determined to legislate this corporate tax cut. Somehow, they're determined to push on. The government have been unable to get the numbers in the Senate today because this is bad policy. The leaked BCA letter today shows that.

As Fairfax media reported today, BCA members have apparently been negotiating on the terms of this letter for months, and good on them; they've got a right to be involved in public affairs. But, surely, during that time, a little bit of this government's certainty would have rubbed off on them.

Surely, if it's as plain as day that a tax cut is going to deliver more jobs, wages and taxes, this is exactly the kind of thing the BCA would've been able to get its members to sign on to. The government may be sure that a $65 billion gift to big business is going to lead to jobs, but apparently the BCA aren't. You'd think that, at a time when the OECD and the IMF are warning about the dangers of inequality to the economy, the government would be doing everything that it could do to see a pay rise for everyday Australians. But, only today, we've seen representatives of underpaid, early childhood educators here at Parliament House demanding better conditions. These educators are paid just $21 an hour, despite looking after Australia's future. How is it that this government could possibly be focused on gifting away cash to big business and they couldn't even meet with these workers today? I wish Senator Martin were here today to see this debate that is happening. (Time expired)