ABC AM WITH SABRA LANE
THURSDAY, 30 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT: Government’s tax cut for big business; sugar industry Code of Conduct
SABRA LANE: Today's the last scheduled parliamentary sitting day before the main budget and it appears certain the Federal Government's plan to cut the tax rate for all businesses to 25 per cent won't get through the Senate. The Coalition's Enterprise Tax Plan was the centrepiece of last year's budget. Labor doesn't support it and it also lacks support from the entire Senate crossbench, although the government last night won over One Nation Senators for part of the tax plan, as Julia Holman reports from Parliament House.
JULIA HOLMAN: The government needs the support of a disparate group of crossbenchers in order to get its legislation through the Senate. One impasse was smoothed over last night – with a national Code of Conduct drafted for the sugar industry. The Treasurer Scott Morrison.
SCOTT MORRISON, TREASURER: I wouldn't call it an expansive code. It's not controlling prices, it's not re-regulating the industry, or anything like that. It's our view that these issues should be sorted out commercially. But when they can't be sorted out commercially, we're not going to allow it to turn to seed. There is a mechanism to ensure that things get sorted.
HOLMAN: Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Senators had earlier this week threatened to abstain from voting on government legislation until the sugar issue - which was affecting some Queensland growers - was sorted out. One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is claiming victory for his party.
SENATOR MALCOLM ROBERTS: Yes, there's no doubt about that. There's complete certainty that had Pauline not got involved, it wouldn't have been achieved in time.
HOLMAN: But even with the sugar issue sorted, the government still doesn't have support to cut business taxes. One Nation will only approve tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of $50 million or less.
ROBERTS: That's roughly 15-20 employees, and that's a small to medium size enterprise.
HOLMAN: While Nick Xenophon's team are so far saying that their limit is $10 million. Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch also says he'll support the $10 million limit. Although he's written to the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, requesting more information about the company tax cuts, and he may be up for negotiation.
SENATOR DERRYN HINCH: I'm prepared to go up a bit, but I'm not going to tell you how much. I've got a bit of wriggle-room, but I've made a policy of not announcing my plans on Fran Kelly or Patricia Karvelas.
HOLMAN: What about on AM?
HINCH: And not even on AM! Sorry.
HOLMAN: Senator Hinch says he is preparing for the Senate to sit late tonight. His best guess is that the government will eventually end up getting tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million.
HINCH: But round this place, who knows? We're here till midnight tonight, and I'll see what happens.
HOLMAN: Labor only wants businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million to get a tax cut. Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: That covers 83 per cent of businesses and Labor is supporting a corporate rate cut for those 83 per cent of businesses. But we don't believe that now is the right time for a corporate rate cut across the board.
HOLMAN: The Coalition will most likely have to change its bill to get it through the Senate. Whether it will pass, who will get a tax break, and what, if anything, the government will have to concede, the Treasurer won't say.
MORRISON: All those questions will be answered by the time the Senate rises I have no doubt, one way or the other.
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