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Speech on Stage 3 Tax Cuts

On Thursday 8 September 2022, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the government's Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 2) Bill 2022. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: We have in front of parliament right now the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 2) Bill 2022, which simply does not address the biggest budgetary issue in this country: Labor's stage 3 tax cuts. I want to take this time to ask: who does this government govern for? It's not clear to me that it's for everyday people. The rhetoric is there but you have to look at the actions.

At the moment Labor are about to rip $244 billion out of the budget over the next decade and hand the bulk of it to the ultra-wealthy—a quarter of a trillion dollars. Labor will say they inherited these handouts for the mega-rich from the previous government. That is not true. They in fact voted for them along with the Liberals. This was a bipartisan commitment to putting money that was meant for health, education and social support into the hands of people who don't need it. But Labor can reverse it. It's okay. Be mature. Admit you made a mistake and repeal these tax cuts—and do it now.

Labor's stage 3 tax cuts aren't just some numbers on paper; they will affect millions of people's real lives. People in this chamber may be sheltered from this on these, frankly, absurdly large salaries we have, but many everyday people out there are going through hell right now, with a cost-of-living crisis unlike any in recent memory. If you were just getting by a year ago, you are in a state of absolute stress and anxiety now. If you were just making rent or mortgage repayments before and just managing your electricity bills, you are really stressing out now about where to find that money. Inflation is running at 6.1 per cent, and real wages have fallen by 3.5 per cent. It is tough out there. Rents have spiked 16.9 per cent in Brisbane in the last 12 months. Mortgages are about to significantly increase with the RBA's recent interest rate hikes. We're hearing of more and more people finding themselves without a roof over their heads. We have families sleeping in cars. But, instead of taking that $244 billion and spending it on the things that will help everyday people get by, like building public housing, doubling JobSeeker, funding Medicare properly, Labor have decided to hand it over as tax cuts, the bulk of which will go to the megarich of this country.

These tax cuts are actually quite obscene. Of this $244 billion, the richest one per cent in Australia will receive as much as the poorest 65 per cent of Australia combined. The top 20 per cent of income earners will receive 77 per cent of this $244 billion. For the rest, crumbs. Members of this chamber will receive $9,000 in tax cuts a year. Alan Joyce will receive that too. Billionaires like Gina Rinehart will get $9,000 in tax cuts a year, and two-thirds of these tax cuts will flow to men, while only one-third will come to women, only furthering that gender pay gap. I'm sorry if it offends people in this chamber, but someone on over $200,000 a year doesn't need another business class flight every year.

My Greens colleague, Max Chandler-Mather, has just moved an amendment to this Treasury laws bill to call on this government to stop these unjustifiable stage 3 tax cuts. There's no reason to proceed with them. Let's use this opportunity to drop them now. While Labor are handing out $9,000 to the Alan Joyces of the world, our public services are eroded. But imagine what we could do with $244 billion. Since Labor seem to be lacking in imagination at the moment, here's a quick list of some of the things we could do with that quarter of a trillion dollars. Medicare hasn't kept up with inflation, so it's increasingly impossible to see a bulk billing doctor. We could fix that, giving everyone access to genuinely free and comprehensive health care. People can't access dental under Medicare. We could make seeing the dentist something everyone can do for free. Our nurses, teachers, early childcare workers are underpaid; our hospitals are understaffed; and our schools are underfunded. We could make sure our health and education sectors are fully funded, world class and our essential workers are looked after. JobSeeker is well below the poverty line. With $244 billion, we could double it and ensure everyone has something to fall back on when times are tough. The pension is also below the poverty line. We could let everyone have comfortable, happy retirements regardless of whether they were fortunate enough to accrue a lot of super. Child care is prohibitively expensive for so many families. We could make it free. We have hundreds and thousands of people currently on the waiting list for social housing. With $244 billion, we could build enough beautifully designed public housing to give every single one of them a decent home and have plenty left over for people who just want a secure place to live for low rent. One of these things alone could be transformative, but with $244 billion we could go a long way to making all of these a reality in Australia.

We have a Treasury laws amendment bill in front of us that doesn't mention Labor's stage 3 tax cuts. It doesn't repeal them, although it could. It doesn't free up that $244 billion to fund the things that everyday people need. Whenever we in the Greens suggest that the government could deliver something that would genuinely help everyday Australians, like bringing dental into Medicare, like raising the pension, like lowering the age of retirement, they cry poor and say, 'We're in too much debt.' Too much debt when we could give billions upon billions in handouts to the megarich? Well, you can't use public debt as an excuse to not fund social programs while ripping a quarter of a trillion dollars out of the budget. It's an insult to the intelligence of everyday Australians.

Why does this government not govern for the real people? If they go ahead with these tax cuts, it will be sadly all too clear that they're not governing for the person who can't afford to see the dentist, the person who's lost work, the person who can't afford to pay the rent or mortgage. They'll be governing for the megarich.

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