Monday, 21 November 2011
In contrast with the speech that we have just heard from the member for Mitchell, which exuded a sense of negativity—constant carping negativity—about all the things that cannot be done, all the doom and gloom of days of yore, I am going to offer a much more positive and enabling view of the country to the chamber this evening. In the interests of people who might be listening to this debate, I want to put on the record that, as a parliamentarian, there are some incredibly clarifying moments you get to experience here in the House. For me, one of those was last week, and I am sure it was for many others in this chamber as well, when we heard from the President of the United States and his very clear articulation of 'The place of freedom is at the heart of all the things that matter.' That was one moment of clarification for me.
The President told us that democracy and freedom go hand in hand and that prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. I agree with him. There is much to be drawn out from that comment by the US President. In the days that followed, I noted some commentary on it in the newspapers. But I refer to it today, because there is legislation before the House this week that reveals this government's commitment to one of the core tenets of democracy in our Australian parlance—a fair go.
I do not think it is going too far to say that the principle of a fair go is one of the most fundamental of all Australian principles. I dare say it is a quintessential part of understanding Australian principles. Yet, when I look around my electorate, I feel that there are, sadly, too many for whom the fair go does not quite apply. It is a sad fact that, in our country, the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown and is continuing to grow. We can no longer afford to ignore that. Figures released last month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that, since 2005-06, the wealthiest 20 per cent of households have increased their average net worth by 15 per cent, with a CPI adjustment in there. But, in contrast, the poorest 20 per cent of households saw only a four per cent rise. That 20 per cent of wealthy households had an average net worth of $2.2 million per household and accounted for around two-thirds of total household wealth. Again, by contrast, the poorest 20 per cent of households had an average net worth of $32,000 per household. What a contrast! They accounted for only one per cent of total household wealth. This stark reality is detailed in the data contained in Household Wealth and Wealth Distribution, Australia, issued this year, on 14 October. Unsurprisingly, at least to those of us in regional areas, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows household wealth is actually much more concentrated in metropolitan areas. This is the data; it gives us a picture. But most of us do not need that data to know that the distribution of wealth in our country is not what it should be. So in that context it is clear that, if we are to hold true to our expression of fairness, we need to attend to that burgeoning gap. And that is what the Gillard Labor government is committed to doing. When I express a belief in that notion of a fair go, I mean a fair go for all, not just for some. And that is where the distinction between those opposite and those on this side is perhaps most stark. It is at its most evident right now in two completely contrasting views in this parliament on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. As I said, Labor in government are in the process of enacting the type of reform we know will ensure that all Australians share in the wealth of this nation as we move forward together. At this time, when the mining sector is booming and some companies—indeed, many overseas owned companies—are making record profits, super profits, we see this as an opportunity to advance the benefit of all Australians by making sure that the profit boom is shared. We have determined to share it in a number of ways.
We are going to increase superannuation for eight million Australians from nine to 12 per cent. It is not a surprise that it is a Labor government that is making sure that this superannuation advantage is established and extended; it was Labor, after all, who started it off. Just as I am speaking here this evening, 20 years ago there was another member for Mitchell and I would not be surprised if he would have been saying that there was no way that Australians could afford superannuation. Thank God it was a Labor government that was in at the time and made it happen; otherwise, we would still be in a situation where there was no superannuation.
It is important, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics data, that we do attend to the reality of superannuation, because it was the main financial asset held by Australian households, according to the ABS data, with three-quarters of all households having some superannuation assets. For households with superannuation, the average value of their superannuation was $154,000, but for half of these the value of their superannuation was actually less than $60,000.
So we are certainly going to make sure that a share of that boom profit from the mining sector is going to assist eight million workers. But that is not all we are going to do. We are going to reduce company tax from 30 per cent to 29 per cent. Again, those opposite will be whingeing and moaning, declaring that it is impossible and cannot be delivered—there will be a whole lot of negative diatribe going on around that. Further, we are committed to funding key infrastructure projects with that super profits tax that we are going to collect from the mining companies, and this will change the profitability of those communities and the benefit to all of those communities.
But tonight I particularly want to speak to the fact that 2.3 million small businesses will benefit from an instant asset write-off of any item up to the value of $6,500. This is a massive change and a fantastic incentive to small business. Certainly it will have an incredibly positive impact on small business cash flow.
The government and key Independents in this House are working to ensure the passage of this legislation, to see the practical implementation of the concept of a fair go for our particular time in our history as a nation. In contrast, the Leader of the Opposition has only one word to utter: 'No,' over and over again, to the point where the Leader of the Opposition is well described as a walking vuvuzela.
But to those 2.3 million small businesses, those people who employ half of the workers in Australia, that sector that is one-third of the economy—what does 'No' mean? I would just like to put on record what it means to Ross Wouters, a local bricklayer in my area. He needs to get a new trailer next year, a new brick saw and a new computer for his home office. Each of those items is under $6,500 and each of them will be able to be written off instantly. That is a massive positive impact on his cash flow. And when the cash flow of a business is established and moving through well then it is possible for employment to be sustained and there is even the possibility of taking on another staff member. In the end, it is really all about jobs. Our freedom is certainly tied to our capacity to work. Local businesses such as the Kincumber quarry, which is being run by the second generation of the Norman family, need to replace computers in their offices. At Kincumber they need to replace some of the items out in the quarry. They will be able to write off items up to the value of $6,500. Rory's hairdressers in Gosford, where I was well looked after the other day, need a new cash register and a new hair dryer. They will be able to write those off as assets for their business. The man in the pie shop just around the corner from my office needs a new pie oven. These are small businesses that employ really great local people in the area where I live. We know that freedom depends on all Australians having a fair go and getting their fair share of the profits of this country, and our mining resource rent tax legislation will ensure that.