BILLS; Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018; Second Reading

May 25, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (19:15): From listening to a number of speakers from the government side in this debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018 you'd think that the centrepiece of this budget was delivering tax cuts to working families. Time after time they've been saying that this is the priority of this government, but, quite frankly, everyone knows that that is a myth. Everyone knows that the centrepiece or the signature policy of this government is the $80 billion tax cut to big business. They don't like talking about health, education or pensioners, because they are all cuts. What is happening to families out there are all cuts.

This is an exercise in smoke and mirrors. They're trying to say that they are going to give these tax cuts from 1 July this year. They are projecting our economy for another seven years. They are saying that they are going to make this plan and that wage growth will average 3½ per cent. No economist has come out to endorse the government on any of that. Not even the conservative media have come out with that—not even Sky News. Nobody has come out to say that this is based on any real or proper foundation. This is a pie in the sky.

They are trying to sell as the centrepiece of the government's budget plan these tax cuts for Australians. If that's really what it is about, we have a far better plan for them. The Leader of the Opposition in his budget in reply speech actually spoke of it. We will double what the government is proposing to put out on 1 July this year. We would deliver double that by 1 July 2019. What the government is talk about is a modest increase of about $10 a week for workers in this country. We're not going to stand in the way of any increase, but that is a pretty modest increase. You only have to spend a little bit of time at McDonald's to realise it's going to get swallowed up pretty quickly, particularly if you have got a family.

In addition to that, they're going to project what the economy is going to be like effectively for the next seven years. No reputable economist that I've read has come anywhere near that and given it any credit. They say that you don't know what will occur that far out. I will go to what the IMF, for instance, had to say about it. In terms of the budgetary position, they said:

Decisive action is needed now to strengthen fiscal buffers, taking full advantage of the cyclical upswing in economic activity.

That's the IMF's position: think about where you are now and make some plans for the future by having that buffer. I would have thought that it was almost conservative logic to do something like that. I think John Howard had a bit of a view about that at one stage, although he didn't want to spend much on infrastructure when he was there.

Also, talking about conservative commentators, Peter Martin, the economics editor in The Age,said:

We've been given a budget for the good times that rewards us as if those good times will last, even though they may not.

The world did not see the coming of the global financial crisis in 2008. We all saw when Lehman Brothers went under, and then it started cascading. It caught out just about every international economy, except Australia. I think we handled that pretty well. The member for Lilley was regarded very highly over the way he took decisive action and actually insulated Australia's economy from that. You never hear people over there talk about the global financial crisis. What they do like to talk about is debt and deficit.

Mr Dick: Not anymore.

Mr HAYES: They like to talk about budget emergencies and all that sort of stuff, although you're right, they're not talking about that now; they've decided to give that away. They almost tripled the debt at that stage. We are now moving past half a trillion dollars in gross debt in this country. So they are moving forward on this all right, and yet they want to give $80 billion to big business. They say that, if we do that, it's going to trickle down to workers. When you think about it, big business in this country has been making reasonable profits over the last five years. Those profits haven't trickled down to their workers. The banks, under the Treasurer's plan, are about to get a tax cut of $17 billion, but the banks over the last 12 months made about $34 billion in profits collectively. That hasn't trickled down to workers in the financial system. It hasn't trickled down to the workers in the big banks. I can't speak for the executives up there, as to what they're getting paid. Bear in mind that this is the government that fought tooth and nail for a royal commission into financial management institutions generally. They didn't want it. As the Treasurer pointed out to us on many occasions, 'It's not going to tell us anything that we don't know about the financial institutions.' Now they don't want to know a thing about it.

We are seeing a litany of things coming out about how the banks have exploited customers and about companies such as AMP, which is almost without a board now because of mismanagement and the way they deal with customers. For children, there is the Dollarmites Club. I always thought the 'Dollarmites' was where I would like to go skiing one day! The bank made sure they artificially stimulated the Dollarmites Club so that the executives could still get their bonuses from operating accounts. These are the people that this government is wedded to looking after. The centrepiece of the government's budget was to give $80 billion to big business and multinational companies. Simply giving $10 a week to workers—as much as anything is going to be helpful for people, particularly those with families—doesn't really measure up to this.

I have just one piece of advice for those opposite. I've been married a long while—in fact, 42 years today—and we've had to manage our household budget. When we couldn't afford things, we didn't buy them. If the government really cannot afford to give an $80 billion increase to big business, don't do it. It's as simple as that. Don't do it on the backs of pensioners, on the backs of families, on the backs of hardworking Australians. There is the hyperbole they go on about over there: 'We want to recognise hard work.' They seem to be outright penalising people who are working hard for this country.

Pensioners in my community—and, as a matter of fact, all of the government's pensioners over there as well—including age pensioners, are going to lose their energy supplement of $14 a fortnight. The government reckon that they don't need it now, even though we're seeing record electricity prices at the moment under their watch. Even though that's all occurring, they're going to take that from pensioners. These pensioners aren't about to work some overtime. They're not about to work another shift or anything like that to pay the difference, because, in most cases, they are age pensioners or disability support pensioners and they don't get any extra income.

We see a government that's committed to wanting to take money out of education. It wants to take $17 billion out of our schools. I would have thought everybody in this place would understand the value of a good education. Most people in this place have had a good education. An investment in education is an investment not only in people who are going to either school or tertiary education; it's an investment in the future of this country. It's a matter of actually believing in where we want to be in the years to come. That is why you put money into education and into our universities and our TAFE colleges. In my own community here in Western Sydney, we are building the Badgerys Creek airport, and the government keeps talking about that, which is great. We need infrastructure to support it, but I'll tell you what we really need. We need young people who are trade qualified to work there, yet we see another $260 million is being taken out of TAFE. That means fewer apprenticeships.

We need to start being smart about this. We need to look at building a country that is going to be able to work towards the future. We need trades. We need to be skilled. We need to be smart. We've got to be that smarter nation. We can't be the ones who are just, as former and now current Prime Minister Mahathir said, the white trash of Asia. We've got to be there, outcompeting all those in our region and all those on the globe. We need a smart country, and that's going to be underpinned by smart people. We've got to ensure that our young people have the skills to compete for the future.

I want to get back to the tax plan. Whilst we will support, clearly, an increase for workers—and, at $10, it is a modest increase—I would have thought the smarter thing for this government to do would be to break up this bill into three components. We would allow the first tranche of this to go through. But, in terms of what's due to come in part 2 and part 3 of it in another four years and another seven years, let's see what the financial information that's current for that time is going to be. The government benches are called the Treasury benches. If they're the Treasury benches, you should know what you're going to be budgeting for if you're going to start making outlays that will apply in seven years time.

It seems to me that there's just too much happening at the moment around finances and budgets and things like that for people to comprehend. Only today, believe it or not, we learnt about this secret deal with Pauline Hanson. I was here when John Howard was Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, I got along quite well with John Howard. He made it very clear when he was here that he would put One Nation last. The Liberals would not preference them. We don't even know what's in this deal. Mr Deputy Speaker, you heard today, time and time again, the Prime Minister being asked: what is this deal which Senator Cormann has already validated as existing, what's in it, what has Pauline Hanson been able to get from the government, and is it in the budget? Clearly, they can answer that, but they won't. I don't know whether they've gone to your party room and told you guys what's happening. I know most of my colleagues over there on the government side. I wouldn't accuse any of them of being racist, but you're really getting into bed with a racist party. If you're going to start doing secret deals and you're not prepared to admit to them in this House and not prepared to admit to them to the Australian people, is this going to be the basis upon which we're going to have budgets in the future?

As I said, I would have thought the smarter thing for this government to do would be to agree to amend the legislation to allow the first tranche of it to proceed on its own merit and for the further aspects of it, the second and third tranche, to be subject to financial information, including the year-on-year costings.

Debate interrupted.