Coalition ‘cannot be taken seriously’ on tax, PM claims

Kat Wong and Andrew Brown |

Anthony Albanese says the coalition is being disingenuous with voters who are getting tax cuts.
Anthony Albanese says the coalition is being disingenuous with voters who are getting tax cuts.

The federal opposition took a pragmatic approach in deciding to back the government’s changes to stage three tax cuts because people are hurting, Peter Dutton says.

The leader also denied it was humiliating to have to stand in favour of Labor’s changes – which will shave the tax relief offered to high income earners – to the policy created by the previous coalition government.

“We stood up because we want to see people given assistance,” Mr Dutton told ABC TV on Wednesday.

“It addresses some of the damage that Labor has done to the economy and the cost-of-living pressures are really acute for families, so we listened to that and we acted.”

Mr Dutton also rejected suggestions Prime Minister Anthony Albanese should get credit for taking a political risk and altering the cuts.

“They did this with the Dunkley election contest in mind,” he said, referring to the upcoming by-election in the Victorian electorate which Labor faces a tough battle to retain.

This week, Mr Albanese has taken the opposition to task for railing against the tax cut changes before eventually capitulating.

“(The opposition) have described our policy to give tax cuts to every Australian in the following terms: an egregious error, a betrayal, trickery, absolutely shameful, class warfare,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

“They all said that before they declared they were going to vote for it.

“I mean, you cannot be taken seriously unless you say the decision this government has made is wrong, and therefore, the original position should have remained in place.”

Mr Dutton confirmed this week the coalition would not vote against the revised cuts when they come before parliament, paving the way for the changes to take effect in July.

Those earning less than $150,000 will get a greater cut than under the original proposal, while those earning more will still get a tax benefit but less than previously forecast.

Coalition support for the measures came after the opposition spent weeks criticising the proposal, even challenging Labor to an early election.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the coalition had surrendered.

“To justify this humiliating capitulation, (the coalition) said they’re going to resurrect the old stage three tax cuts,” he told parliament.

Peter Dutton
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says the coalition will not vote against the revised tax cuts. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The coalition has promised to take further tax policy to the next election while remaining tight-lipped on specifics, saying any proposals must be carefully considered and costed.

The prime minister maintained the changes were made “for the right reasons” and many Australians including former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser agree.

“I was delighted that the Labor government was at last persuaded to revamp stage three of the tax cuts,” he told ABC Radio.

“The original coalition plan was patently unfair to low-income groups and it was even unfair now in the light of the changes in circumstances over the last several years.

“Particularly to the lower-income groups who have been squeezed, their living standards have been squeezed, by increases in prices and interest rates and virtually stationary wage levels over the last several years … It was great to see that change to a fairer distribution.”

The coalition plans to refer the legislation to a Senate committee before it passes parliament.