• Hannah Phillips

This Week in Parliament

The House of Representatives will sit from Monday to Thursday this week but all eyes will be on the Senate to see whether the government’s proposed tax cuts for companies with turnovers of more than $50 million will pass the upper house and become law.

The lower house sittings will begin on Monday with private members’ bills. Independent Cathy McGowan’s bill calling for more support for regional universities will be the first order of business on Monday.

Debate on this bill will be followed by three bills from the Greens’ Adam Bandt proposing amendments to the Fair Work Act to implement the ACTU agenda of greater equality, better work life balance and more job security.

The government’s programme includes bills to implement a new student loan arrangement, measures to promote competition in telecommunications, promote drug testing for people on the dole, establish the new Department of Home Affairs, and the regulation of online content.

On Sunday it seemed that the government was close to getting the numbers in the Senate to pass its tax cuts although it still needed the votes of Senators Derryn Hinch and Tim Storrer to get the legislation through.

Senator Hinch was looking for a quid pro quo: he had originally asked for the banks to be exempted from the cuts but, when this was rejected by the government’s lead negotiator Senator Mathias Cormann, he modified his claim to reinstatement of the clean energy supplement for pensioners.

Senator Storrer, who was only sworn in on last Monday, was still studying the legislation and was yet to make his mind up on how to vote.

Senator Cormann said on Sunday that the cuts were essential for Australian companies to maintain their competitiveness in the current global environment of competitive tax cutting. Brendan O’Connor, rejected this idea.

“The overwhelming bulk of the $65 billion ... will go to multinational companies; the majority of the largesse will go to foreign shareholders, it will go to banks,” he said.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm seemed to have a bit of both arguments that the cuts were essential to ensure competitiveness but that there was unlikely to be any early economic dividend in terms of higher wages and more business investment.

He said that higher wages would only come with higher productivity.

There’s no doubt that corporate tax cuts will stimulate the economy but the fact that the cuts will be introduced over ten years means that the stimulus will be incremental.

On the other hand Labor’s proposed income tax cuts and increased expenditure on health and education will lead to an immediate significant stimulus of the economy.

On other matters to come before the Senate, the non-government Senators will move to disallow Josh Frydenberg’s changes to marine park boundaries.

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