Matter of Public Importance
Wednesday 29 March, 2017
At the end of last year, there was a lovely little yarn in one of the Sydney papers about a cabinet leak. It said that preliminary figures had come to cabinet on the census completion rate. The story did not contain the actual number itself. What it did say, though, was that it had a decimal point in it. According to the story, 'one minister did not seem to get it. How could you have a fraction of a person or a fraction of a household?'
With mathematical skills like that, it is really no surprise that, since the government have come to office, net debt is on track to soon double. When he was Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth launched the coalition's debt truck. When they were in opposition, they promised the budget would be in surplus in their first year and in every year after that. Yet we have now seen the deficits rising faster than they were in the global financial crisis, and—as the member for Rankin has pointed out—net debt is on track to soon double.
The Australian people were promised a government of adults, but they got a government of screaming teenagers. If only the Treasurer were as ambitious for the country as he is for himself. If only the Treasurer could spend a little bit more time on focused tax reform than on updating his LinkedIn profile, which is probably what he is doing these days. This is a Treasurer who, as the member for McMahon has pointed out, has flip-flopped on every possible tax reform issue—a higher GST, state income taxes and capital gains tax changes. He took capital gains tax changes to cabinet and was rolled. He was against cigarette excise. He was against superannuation until, as the member for McMahon has pointed out, he backflipped and took Labor's position.
They have had four years in government, and they are still blaming Labor. Bart Simpson would be embarrassed to blame-shift like these guys blame-shift. They are patting themselves on their back today for closing multinational tax loopholes, for cracking down on multinationals, but at the same time they are rejecting Labor's sensible proposals to close debt loopholes that would raise eight times as much revenue. When it comes to inequality, these guys think Mount Everest is a level playing field! At a time when home ownership is at a 60-year low and wage growth is at a 30-year low, their solution to housing affordability is to tell people to 'get a good job that pays good money'. How do they propose to ensure that we have good jobs that pay good money? They are going to cut penalty rates. Take $77 a week away, and then see how you afford a house. This is at a time when, in the last quarter of last year, house prices rose 10 times as fast as wages.
Not everyone is going to be worse off under the Turnbull government. On 1 July, when the millionaires' tax cut kicks in, a neurosurgeon will get a tax cut of $7,000, a plastic surgeon will get a tax cut of $5,000 and a futures trader will get a tax cut of $2,000. Ninety-four per cent of the benefits of this millionaires' tax cut will go to the top one per cent—a group that has doubled its share of national income over the course of the last generation. Frankly, the changes that the government are bringing about through their unfair budgets are so unfair that the Sheriff of Nottingham is now voting for Xenophon in the Senate!
We heard something very true today in question time. The Prime Minister said, 'I represented the big end of town, and I've always done the best by them.' Frankly, the Prime Minister continues to do his best by the big end of town. Under this government, the big end of town get a proposed $50 billion tax cut. They get shielding from closing debt-deduction loopholes, and they see cuts in penalty rates for low-wage workers. Every decision made by the government seems almost calculated to increase inequality. At the same time, we have seen wages for the top 10 per cent of workers grow three times faster than for the bottom 10 per cent of workers, and the richest three Australians have more wealth than the poorest one million Australians. With inequality at a 75-year high, we have a Prime Minister who is of, by and for the top one per cent. The moral arc of the Liberal universe is short, but it always bends towards inequality.