SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

25 June 2018

REARRANGEMENT OF BUSINESS TREASURY LAWS AMENDMENT (ENTERPRISE TAX PLAN NO. 2) BILL 2017

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA

*** check against delivery ***

Mr President, what I am moving to do is to bring forward the debate on the company tax legislation. And the reason I’m doing that is that is the bill the government claims has priority. That is the bill that the country is focused on and that is the bill the Senate should be debating.

At the moment what we see is the government listing a whole range of legislation prior to that bill being debated, and we know why that is. It’s because they want to give themselves time to try to do a deal with the crossbench. Let’s be clear about it.

We on this side of the chamber don’t support these company tax cuts and, if a number of the public statements from senators are true, then neither do a clear majority in this chamber.

Senator Hanson has told Fairfax:

I have no intention of supporting corporate tax cuts.

And on Twitter yesterday she declared in a tweet that she personally signed:

One Nation are no chance of supporting company tax cuts.

Just this morning, Senator Griff told journalists that his party remain unconvinced. In an email to her supporters recently Senator Hanson’s office declared that:

Senator Hanson has announced that One Nation will not be supporting the company tax cuts which include multinationals.

If what Senator Hanson and One Nation and Senator Griff, Senator Patrick and Centre Alliance are saying in public and to their supporters is true then there is absolutely no need to delay this debate for another hour. We should get on with debating the bill.

If One Nation and Centre Alliance are serious, and they don’t support these unfunded and extravagant tax cuts, then they won’t delay debate to enable more backroom deals.

If senators do not support this motion we can only assume one thing: that they are not being honest with the Australian people and they are seeking to deceive voters in the July by-elections by saying one thing on company tax cuts now but keeping them alive so they can do a dirty deal in August, after the by-election.

Can I say: unlike the government, we are not actually voting to gag a bill. We are voting to bring this bill on for debate. Last week we saw the government and crossbench senators vote to gag debate on a bill. We’re saying that we’re happy to debate it, so let’s bring it on.

I also make the point that the Senate has extensively debated this issue. We spent seven hours and 40 minutes debating the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016 and six hours and 13 minutes debating the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan No. 2) Bill 2017. So we’ve already spent 14 hours debating a policy that a clear majority of senators say they oppose.

We on this side believe that these bills are about an $80 billion handout to big business at a time when we have the Budget in deficit, penalty rates being cut, wages failing to keep up with inflation and schools and hospitals being cut.

$17 billion dollars of these tax cuts will go to the banks—the same amount that the government is cutting from schools.

Let’s remember what is also happening: by cutting out revenue sources down the track, this government is ensuring that a future government will be in the position of having to look to cut education, to cut health, to cut social security, even to cut defence, particularly if there is a downturn in the economy—turning off the tap in order to impose more spending cuts.

These tax cuts, we believe, are deeply unfair and unaffordable. As Goldman Sachs and others have pointed out, the vast majority of these tax cuts would actually go into the pockets of overseas investors.

It’s time for senators here to put up or shut up: are you being straight with the Australian people? If One Nation doesn’t support this motion and if Centre Alliance doesn’t support this motion, Australians are entitled to assume that these senators are not being honest with the Australian people. Australians can assume that these parties are seeking to deliberately deceive voters in next month’s by-elections by keeping these tax cuts for companies and the big banks alive so that they’ve got the option of doing a dirty deal with the government when we return in August.

For that reason, the Senate should bring on this debate. We should debate these tax bills. The government say that they are the centrepiece of their economic plan but, instead, they’ve pushed them down the debating list because they want time to try to do another backroom deal.

They’re entitled to try to do a backroom deal but the Senate is entitled to say, ‘No, the majority of the chamber has a position that does not support billions of dollars going to multinationals and the banks.’ We are entitled to bring on this bill and have a proper debate.

I urge senators to support the suspension of standing orders to enable this debate to be brought on. Let’s get on with debating this legislation.

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.