Returning to Surplus

22 May 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (17:37): I am delighted to speak on Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax
Plan) Bill 2018 today, because this bill and tax plan more broadly for business and personal income tax cuts really
demonstrates very clearly the large difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party in our approaches. I
don't think we have seen such a clear distinction between our parties on a core issue for hardworking Australians
for some time.

The Liberal Party, we on this side of the house, the government—we want hard working Australians to keep their hard-earned money and spend it as they see fit. Those opposite want to take their hard-earned money from them. They want to take the hard-earned money made by hardworking Australians and they want to spend it on behalf of those Australians. I would much prefer that hardworking Australians decided how to spend their money themselves than that it be done by those opposite, who would like to spend it on their behalf. So I'm very pleased to support this legislation that will ensure that the government takes less money away from hardworking Australians and leaves more in their pockets so that they can spend it out in the economy in their local communities, in their local newsagent or clothes shop, employing someone to renovate their house—whatever they might be doing to create economic growth and prosperity for all Australians.

As I said, I'm pleased that we're seeing such sharp points of differentiation between the government on this side and those on the other side, because we do believe in low taxation, personal freedom, small government and economic growth, and it's in stark contrast to the plan of those opposite for high-taxing, high-spending government were they ever to get back into government—and we'll be working very hard to make sure that they don't. I am very happy to be going into an election with this as the point of difference between our parties, because this is about, as I said, letting hardworking Australians keep more money in their pockets so they decide how to spend their money.

The government do have an excellent record. I was delighted to see that just late last week it was announced that we have now created over one million jobs since coming to office, with the highest rate of jobs growth since the Howard years just over a decade ago. Our personal income tax plan will build on our good work by making personal income taxes lower, simpler and fairer. In doing so, we will providing tax relief for millions of Australians, especially low- and middle-income earners. We're doing so while repairing the budget bottom line that we inherited from those opposite, which was disastrous, to say the least—a record deficit, some $48
billion deficit.

Ms Owens: And then you doubled it!

Ms FLINT: We're not even talking about the debt; we're just talking about the deficit.

Mr Hart: You should talk about the debt. Let's talk about the debt.

Ms FLINT: We can talk about the debt that you left us, if you like. We inherited terrible debt and deficit and it's made it very difficult to get the budget heading in the right direction, which we are, so we can provide essential services for all Australians. And this achievement cannot be understated.

We have some important but very expensive programs that we are managing to fund whilst establishing and creating more growth in the economy such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for example, that Labor did not fund. We have also introduced true needs-based school funding that Labor never fully negotiated or funded, as we know. They had done something like 27 different dodgy deals around Australia. We have commissioned dozens of naval vessels to be built in Australia which will encourage and create much needed local jobs, whereas those opposite commissioned zero. And we're still in a position to forecast a surplus within the forward estimates while also providing for and budgeting for our personal income tax and business tax cuts. All the while, we have: record funding for hospitals; thousands more home-care packages; record infrastructure investment, including for my home state of South Australia, with some critical infrastructure upgrades in my electorate of Boothby, including the Oaklands crossing rail underpass, which is a welcome relief for my residents, who have been waiting some 40 years for this to occur; and $1.7 billion to continue the South Road upgrades.

The government has even begun establishing our own space agency, which is really exciting. I attended an Adelaide University function on Friday night and heard from a wonderful Adelaide University graduate who is working very hard on the space project and she's quite an inspiration to women in the science area. We have been able to achieve all this not because we're trying to tax our way to prosperity, like those opposite, or because we believe the government can solve all of society's problems, but because of thoughtful public policy research and debate, which creates good economic management.

Because we have stuck to our promise of job creation for our citizens and economic prosperity for our nation, Australia is now better placed to reach new heights over the coming years. The Treasurer, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services have taken to the task of implementing our 2016 election platform with great enthusiasm and great skill, and I commend them all for their incredibly hard and careful work and for the results they're achieving.

Our personal income tax plan will be delivered in three steps. The first step is immediate tax relief for low- and middle-income earners, the second is protecting against bracket creep, and the third is making taxes simpler and flatter. This is an affordable plan and it is a responsible plan. From 1 July, the low- and middle-income tax offset will provide relief of up to $530 for low- and middle-income earners, covering 10 million Australians, with 4.4 million Australians receiving the full benefit. The next step will protect middle-income earners from bracket creep by immediately raising the top threshold of the 32½ per cent tax rate from $87,000 to $90,000, delivering modest relief of $135 to three million Australians. In 2021-22, we'll continue this relief by increasing the top threshold of the 19 per cent tax bracket from $37,000 to $40,000. And, from 2022-23, the 32½ per cent tax bracket will be raised from $90,000 to $125,000, providing a tax cut of $1,350. This money will flow straight back into the economy, spurring spending, further growth, investment and job creation. This is what a real stimulus package looks like: public policy that gives more money to hardworking Australians who will spend it wisely, responsibly and productively. This tax relief for hardworking Australians and the economic activity it will create are both desperately needed in my home state of South Australia. Only yesterday, I spoke in this place about the record number of homes having their power disconnected because they cannot afford to pay their bills and about a recent spike in families needing to use support organisations like Foodbank South Australia because of record high power prices.

We have been clear that this income tax plan is a package. That is how the legislation has been drafted, and it is guiding how the government—we on this side—plan our policy decisions for the next 10 years. Too often we receive feedback that governments don't look far enough into the future, that we're only planning for the next election cycle or three years in advance or over the forward estimates of four years. We are being responsible and setting out a long-term plan for hardworking Australians and to provide them with tax relief. Enshrining this whole tax plan in legislation provides certainty for taxpayers and, importantly, creates an important barrier to those opposite or, worse, the Australian Greens, with whom they have formed partnerships in the past,
changing the goal posts for hardworking Australians if they are ever re-elected to government. Mr Deputy Speaker Buchholz, I know that you and I and my colleagues on this side, will be working very hard to make sure that's never the case.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): I'd just remind the member for Boothby that the chair is an independent.

Ms FLINT: Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, I apologise. Thank you for that reminder. As I mentioned, our Personal Income Tax Plan is just one part of a broad approach to taxation reform in our nation. We are also doing a range of things to encourage businesses to grow, and are trying our very best to cut the tax rates so we're internationally competitive for businesses. We have already passed legislation that sees the company tax rate for our small and medium businesses drop to a more competitive rate of 25 per cent for around 3.2 million businesses, who employ more than 6.5 million Australians. We're doing a range of other things as well, like opening up new markets for Australian exporters through comprehensive free trade agreements, investing $75 billion in productivity enhancing infrastructure, implementing significant reforms to improve competition and choice for Australian consumers, protecting our revenue base through some of the world's toughest anti tax-avoidance laws for big business and stopping the tax burden in the economy from growing past 23.9 per cent.

I want now to reflect on the Personal Income Tax Plan in a slightly more philosophical manner. Today we heard a very fine speech from the Prime Minister about the remarkable contribution that Sir John Carrick made in his service to our nation. Sir John Carrick served during World War II and was held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. He, along with his fellow soldiers and the 100,000 service men and women and their families who have served in all conflicts and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, fought for our freedom, and we owe them our freedom. I was particularly interested to hear from the Prime Minister today that Sir John Carrick was a protege of Menzies, another very fine Australian who made an incredible contribution to our nation. Today just happens to be the 76th anniversary of Sir Robert Menzies's radio address The Forgotten People, which he delivered on 22 May 1942. There are a few parts of his speech that are worth reflecting on in the context of this debate and the approach of those opposite, because it's funny how history tends to repeat at times. In his speech Sir Robert Menzies said:

Quite recently, a bishop wrote a letter to a great daily newspaper … He sought to divide the people of Australia into classes. He was obviously suffering from what has for years seemed to me to be our greatest political disease —the disease of thinking that the community is divided into the … rich and the relatively idle, and the laborious poor, and that every social and political controversy can be resolved into the question: What side are you on?

Now, the last thing that I want to do is to commence or take part in a false war of this kind. In a country like Australia the class war must always be a false war. But if we are to talk of classes, then the time has come to say something of the forgotten class—the middle class—those people who are constantly in danger of being ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the false class war: the middle class who, properly regarded, represent the backbone of this country.

I think that this is where we find ourselves in the tax debate at the moment. Those opposite want to take money from hardworking Australians who, through their own enterprise, through their hard work and through their ambition, effort, independent thought and readiness to serve—again, all words from Sir Robert Menzies—are doing their very best to earn money, provide for their families and give back to their community. Those opposite want to take that money from them. They want to spend it on their behalf. These are the sorts of people who Robert Menzies described as 'salary earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on'. He called them the 'backbone of our nation'.

Hardworking Australians are the backbone of our nation. Whether you're a chef, a waitress, a paralegal, a lawyer, a plumber or an engineer, possibly you're an employee, and that's why we are attempting to pass these personal income tax cuts, so that we can support these hardworking Australians to spend money as they see fit, as opposed to those opposite, who want to take their money from them and spend it on their behalf. It's about encouraging people to earn as much money as possible and to be rewarded for that effort, by keeping personal taxes as low as we can whilst also providing for the important social services that we provide for the nation, like education, health and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, helping those who really do need our assistance, but balancing that by also rewarding people who have done the hard yards, through their ambition, through their effort, through their independent thinking and through their service to the nation, to earn money and to succeed. I sincerely hope that we see these personal income tax cuts fully passed by the parliament, because they are going to reward hardworking Australians.