PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Tax Summit

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:35): What a terrifically breezy gig shadow Treasurer is these days. The shadow Treasurer, the man relied upon by the Leader of the Opposition for advice on fiscal policy to help shape an alternative view about the budget, was unable to deliver anything in relation to savings. The shadow Treasurer went to the National Press Club and was unable to identify any savings to put forward as an alternative to the government's budget. He is a person who floats policy and is then subsequently undermined by the Leader of the Opposition. From what we are given to understand, great division exists in relation to aspects of economic policy within the coalition. Finally, the shadow Treasurer puts forward a resolution and does not even have the decency to turn up to the chamber to speak on it. This constitutes what is entailed within the shadow Treasurer position in the coalition these days. Here we have being debated a motion put forward by the shadow Treasurer, who is not present, which simply amounts to another tactic designed to play politics and wreck important reforms instead of coming up with positive ideas. On this account at least the member for North Sydney is consistent.

The government have agreed with the crossbenchers to hold the tax forum on 4 and 5 October at Parliament House, covering a broad suite of topics including sessions to discuss personal tax, transfer payments, business tax, state taxes, environmental and social taxes, and tax system governance. We will also release a discussion paper in the middle of the year to help foster the debate. We have made it clear there are parts of the tax review we will not be implementing. For instance, we will not increase the GST. But we still expect and welcome a broad and constructive debate on future priorities and challenges. We have a big economic reform agenda, and we look forward to discussing those steps at the forum. It will not surprise anyone to see the coalition playing politics already instead of coming up with positive ideas of their own.

The government have already outlined a substantial agenda that will put a price on carbon for the big polluters to change their behaviour, instead of drawing billions of the government budget as in the direct action plan being advocated by the coalition. We will also reform business taxes, boost superannuation, invest in infrastructure and provide tax breaks for small business. The government have a timetable for these reforms which includes extensive consultation through business roundtables, expert panels and other meetings. The forum itself will lay out the steps we need to take over the next decade.

As this motion would suggest, the opposition have no interest in economic reform whatsoever. They ignored the tax review, the Garnaut review, the Treasury incoming government brief and their own Shergold report on carbon pricing. They ignored overwhelming advice that a carbon price is the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, as reaffirmed recently by Professor Garnaut. They ignored the tax review advice that resource rent taxes are more efficient than royalties, that tax should be simplified for small businesses and individuals, and that superannuation should be boosted and made fairer.

We know that the opposition care just as little about the tax forum because, despite this motion, their position is already settled. They oppose better resource taxation, company tax cuts, small business tax breaks, new infrastructure funding, a boost to superannuation, fairer superannuation incentives, larger superannuation contribution caps, personal tax simplification and a tax discount on interest income.

The government on the other hand have a proud record of reform on tax, delivering $47 billion in tax cuts and, for a person on $50,000 in the Chifley electorate, we have cut their tax by $1,750 per year. The government have committed to keep tax as a share of GDP at or below the level we inherited, which was on average 23.5 per cent. This year we are at 21.8 per cent. Contrast that with the previous government, which was the highest taxing government of all time, peaking at 24.1 per cent of GDP—21.8 per cent today; 24.1 per cent under them.

When the government released the report of the tax review and announced a substantial package of tax reforms in May last year, we made it clear that these were our first steps in a long process. Since then, we have announced a further 12 measures that deliver on reform directions outlined and identified by the tax review, including removing unintended tax incentives for people who drive more than they need in order to obtain a larger tax concession; improving small-business tax rules by replacing the entrepreneurs tax offset with a small-business tax package; and improving certainty for investors by allowing infrastructure projects of national significance to carry forward losses with an uplift factor to maintain value. These measures build on the government's long-term plan to strengthen the economy and I welcome them. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): The time allotted for this debate is expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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