Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024, Treasury Laws Amendment(Cost of Living—Medicare Levy) Bill 2024

Many people in my electorate of Forrest and around Australia have been struggling with the cost of living, and still are. Not only are emergency relief groups reporting significant increases in the number of people needing help; they’re also reporting providing help to people who have never needed it before. This has been the case for the last 18 months, and I think the Prime Minister must have had a sudden insight, or brainwave, or epiphany maybe over Christmas. Perhaps this was when he was actually in Australia, as opposed to overseas or on Toto 1. We are somehow expected to believe that, suddenly, after 18 months of distraction and mismanagement of the economy, the PM belatedly realised that there are millions of Australians struggling with the cost of living.

But let’s be honest here. This decision is only about the Prime Minister’s job and the Dunkley by-election. There is no doubt that Labor has mismanaged the economy and that Australians are worse off as a result—higher interest rates, high inflation, high cost of living and increased spending of an additional $209 billion since Labor came to government.

But we also know the Prime Minister chose this option instead of one of the other options provided by Treasury, alternative options that would not have broken Labor’s election promises or pitted one Australian against another in a dreadful class warfare act, taking from one group of taxpayers to give to another. To the people who were promised tax cuts through legislation, Labor is actually saying, ‘ You don’t deserve those legislated tax cuts.’

This decision actively disincentivises Australians who want to or need to earn and retain more of their income to provide for their families. Removing that 37 per cent tax bracket incentivises workers, no matter where they start, to keep upskilling, investing in opportunities or simply taking on the extra shifts to increase their incomes to meet their commitments and, as I say, support their families.

This comes at the same time that people are already paying more tax to the government. Personal income tax receipts have risen by a record 27 per cent, with the lost LMITO and bracket creep combined. Labor is trying to sell its changes as overall tax cuts, but Labor is actively entrenching bracket creep. This may be a short-term sugar hit that we see in this legislation; however, Treasury have said that this legislation will actually see an increase in taxes of $1.3 billion over the next four years and $28 billion over the next decade. One point eight million households and taxpayers will be worse off, and they are the ones who will not receive those legislated stage 3 tax cuts. Four million households will be worse off over the medium term. In fact, this is going to affect many young people as they improve their incomes, even those that are not yet in the workforce itself.

The coalition will always support lower taxes. Like my colleagues, I respect and value the Australians who work and pay the taxes that fund so many of the government-delivered services and programs that people rely on. But Labor have deliberately broken a promise they repeatedly made to the Australian people. The Prime Minister looks shifty in this instance. It was a promise made around 100 times—before, during and after the election. Australians now know they cannot trust anything that comes out of the mouths of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or any Labor member or senator.

The Prime Minister’s now immortal words, ‘My word is my bond,’ translated actually mean—and they know it —’I will do and say whatever I need to to get elected and change it later.’ The same can be said of the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise:

… one of the things that people have a right to believe, is that when a politician makes a commitment before an election, they keep it and I intend to do just that.

He also said, ‘We’re not going to interfere with the legislated tax cuts which are there.’ No-one will forget what is clearly a demonstrated, calculated and deliberate deceit—the deliberate misleading of the Australian people by the Prime Minister.

‘Trust’, Prime Minister—you used this word constantly during the election campaign. Well, you’ve lost the trust of the Australian people and you’ve proven to them that you lack integrity. While there are some people who will benefit from this broken promise, a broken promise is a broken promise. Prime Minister, your word is no longer your bond. Every time the Prime Minister or Treasurer says, ‘We have not changed our position,’ or ‘We are not considering or planning any changes,’ the Australian people will know, and they do know, that they cannot trust you. Australians know that this is just the start. What’s next? What’s the next broken promise? Will it be capital gains? Will it be negative gearing? Will it be inheritance taxes? Will it be changes to family trusts? The list is endless. But we do know that nothing is off the table, and every time the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or Labor members say the words, ‘We’re not considering it,’ or ‘We have no plans,’ those are Labor’s code words for, ‘Watch this space.’

But the greatest cost of this legislation is the critical lost opportunity for actual tax reform such as was contained in the existing legislated stage 3 tax cuts—tax reform that would have actively encouraged and rewarded aspirational Australians. They would have been encouraged to have a red-hot go, whether in small business or in employment or career opportunities. That tax reform would have encouraged every hardworking, taxpaying Australian earning between $45,000 and $200,000, because the 37c-in-the-dollar tax bracket would have been removed. For people doing overtime or taking on extra shifts, there would have been no booby-trap in that pay packet through that bracket creep. This would have been genuine tax reform, a genuine incentive for hardworking, aspirational Australians—and I encourage every one of them. It would have addressed the disincentive of bracket creep that they face. For workers who would have been able to keep more of their own money, the money they have earned through their own efforts, bracket creep is now still the biggest problem thanks to Labor. Why work harder and longer to earn more, just to give it to Labor to waste or hand to someone else?

Even worse, it’s a great brake on productivity. We are further away from a tax system that is fit for purpose right now and into the future, for those who work hard, train or study, or move on to better paying roles in their chosen jobs or careers; the people who want to start and grow their own business; or, for instance, the many talented tradies who are in such short supply. These are the people who are prepared to take the risk, invest their own money, start their own small business and build it up. We see those young people so often in the small-business awards, and I say, ‘Hallelujah,’ to them. They may have to mortgage their house, their car and perhaps their kids to have a go, but have a go they do.

I take my hat off to every small-business owner in my electorate. Small businesses employ our locals. Small businesses support the sporting clubs and local emergency services. Small-business owners are often the people doing that same work voluntarily. They are often the volunteers in our communities. They support our local jobs by creating local jobs in our regional communities. They are the people who often give our young people their very first job in a small business. They also can be those wonderful people who give more mature, older people their last job. This is critical in our economy and our small communities. That helps drive productivity and leads to real higher wages for their workers. I want to see more young people able to get ahead.

However, the PBO’s SMART model shows that Australians aged from 25 to 55 will be worse off on average as a result of Labor’s legislation. The first two stages of the income tax changes that we made went to lower income earners. Twelve million Australians benefited from stages 1 and 2 of the coalition tax reforms, and that delivered over $40 billion in tax relief to low- and middle-income earners. People on $70,000 have each kept more than $9,000 of their income as a result, and 10 million Australians earning below $120,000 received tax relief through the low- and middle-income tax offset, that cost-of-living offset that was so critical to them. It included 8.2 million people earning below $90,000.

We know Labor that promised at least 97 times that they would reduce electricity prices by $275. They repeatedly promised that they would lower electricity prices, and they haven’t. The Prime Minister won’t even mention that figure. The Prime Minister also promised cheaper mortgages, but that hasn’t happened either. When I talk to and listen to people in my electorate, I find that the ones who have a mortgage are really struggling at this time, having to change what they do in their family and in their life because of the cost of interest rates on their mortgages.

As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time warning people of all ages about the dangers of online scams, I want to finish with a very accurate analogy drawn by the member for Berowra in his contribution. He spoke about the scams that Australians face every day, where online scammers make promises to deliver or do something or actively pretend to be someone they’re not. Throughout the scam, the scammer keeps reassuring their victim that there’s nothing to fear, that there’s no problem and that all the victim has to do is simply trust the scammer. In this instance, the Prime Minister is the scammer. And that is what this legislation is about. It is about Labor’s dreadful scam and deliberate deception of the Australian people for the Prime Minister’s short-term gain.

As I said, the coalition will always support lower taxes, but we will take a tax reform package to the next election that will deliver lower, simpler and fairer taxes to help fight bracket creep to enable and encourage and foster aspirational Australians to keep more of their own money. I know that the policies in this tax space and others will actually have a major impact on regional and remote parts of Australia.

I’ve been farming in this country with my husband and family for 50 years. I’m a very mature-aged person. However, given the changes that Labor has made repeatedly and their policy decisions, I have never seen rural and regional Australia under as much pressure as we are now, for so many reasons, or small and medium businesses. Having a small business has always been tough, but right now it’s tougher for so many than it’s ever been. I just want to encourage all those small- and family-business people who may be watching or listening tonight. We actually value and respect every single thing you do.

There is a dairy farmer in my electorate who has been constantly under pressure from various means. He produces enough milk every year to feed 60,000 people. He said to me, ‘The layer upon layer that we’re noticing—the changes to industrial relations—one thing after another from this government.’ He said to me, ‘We produce the best-quality milk in Australia. We produce the best-quality food and fibre for Australians and others around the world. At some point, wouldn’t you think that one of the things the government could do is just say thank you to those people?’