MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE: Taxation

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (15:57): It has been a long and tough two weeks, especially for our friends opposite. At the end of those two weeks, we should have a bit of levity and start with a joke: Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison, as Treasurer, has been an abysmal failure in every respect other than one: I did not think it would be possible to make Joe Hockey look good; Scott Morrison has proved otherwise. Scott Morrison has proved that Joe Hockey did not do such a bad job. I never thought I would say that here. Now what do we have? We had a new Treasurer come in and he told everyone for ages that he would be way better than the former Treasurer, Joe Hockey. He had been eager for that job and wanted to come in and show us what he could do and wanted to be able to come in and make a big run for the GST. He thought he had it all sorted out—that the GST would come in through his superior advocacy—and what happened? Last week on Insiders it came to a shuddering halt, when even Malcolm Turnbull, who promised economic leadership, went backwards. He put the gears into reverse and went backwards, and you saw the credibility of the new Treasurer go down the gurgler.

It has also been an insight to see the way in which they have framed their response to the economic challenges facing this country. Mind you, when Labor was in government we said that revenue would not be able to keep pace with what was happening in the slowdown in commodities and the way that things were cooling off with the resources boom. Those opposite refused to believe it. Yet, when confronted with the same thing, it appeared to them as a revelation. They said to the country, 'Guess what! The resources boom is slowing down and we're not getting as much money.' No. We knew that was coming. We knew there would be a challenge.

There are two competing responses in this country to the challenge of that slowdown that is confronting the nation and what it will do to the budget. We have a compelling vision. The vision on the other side is that the way to face that challenge is to hit low- and middle-income Australia on so many levels—increasing the GST, which will increase the cost of living, and then basically reducing the ability of low- and middle-income Australia to respond to that by, for example, having an argument about cutting penalty rates. At a time when the economy is slowing down, they are taking away people's ability to spend in the economy and then also hitting them on top of that with a greater GST. That has been their response. The tax plan of those opposite has been to make life harder for individuals and then also shrink their earning capacity. That has been their response.

The compelling vision is the vision that is being put forward by Labor, which is that we all have a part to play, that we all should have a way to be able to meet that challenge and that we should all benefit as a result of that. We should not just have one part of Australia—low- and middle-income Australia—carrying the load. That is why we have said, for example, that multinationals that game tax systems all over the world and have the ability to pay should pay. When we said that wealthy superannuants who were earning more than $75,000 a year through superannuation should pay a little bit more, those opposite screamed that it was not right, that it was not fair and that we could not change superannuation policy. When we said, for example, that we should increase the excise on tobacco, those opposite suddenly discovered an interest in low- and middle-income Australia, saying, 'You can't tax low- and middle-income Australia.' Some of those people pay a heavy price through tobacco consumption as well. We said all along, 'We are happy to accept lower revenue if we see fewer people smoking. We have already factored that in.' We have a vision that is quite different to that of those opposite. We do not expect people on lower and middle incomes to wear the load that those opposite want them to carry. We think that people who have the capacity to pay should pay. That is the way it should be.

Now what is happening? Now that they have ditched the GST increase, what is happening? Those opposite are suddenly the big defenders of multinational tax reform. After telling us that they would not, they are now considering looking at superannuation change. They are also looking at negative gearing changes. All the things they spooked the country about and said should not happen, they are now looking to put on the table. It demonstrates that they do not have a tax plan other than taxing low- and middle-income Australia. (Time expired)

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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