It’s probably a reflection of how carefully leaders approach televised political debates that even those who have spent a career in the rough-and-tumble of public life were channel-surfing when Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten were on stage last night at the National Press Club. Here’s the former NSW premier:
— Barry O'Farrell (@barryofarrell) May 29, 2016
Or how about the host of Insiders:
OK have a good think. When have you last watched 40 minutes of television more boring than you've just watched?
— Barrie Cassidy (@barriecassidy) May 29, 2016
There is one significant gap between the parties at this point in the campaign, however. At every opportunity, opposition leader Bill Shorten hammered the Coalition’s plans for a reduction in the company tax rate, calling it a “$50 billion tax giveaway for large businesses” and describing it as “a very expensive risk”.
“We are not convinced that giving the largest banks in Australia $7.4 billion over the next 10 years is good for the budget, that it’s good for Medicare or that it’s good for the nation,” Shorten said. He argued that Turnbull intends to “push forward with giving $50 billion of money to large corporations” over the next decade. (Let’s put aside the fact that tax cuts are not grants, but simply allowing companies or people to keep their own money in the first place.)
For those that hadn’t flicked over to the league replays or The Voice, Turnbull did take the opportunity to explain an important point in the plan for company tax reductions over the life of the next parliament that Labor is currently successfully drowning out at this point in the campaign. Here’s Turnbull, my emphasis added:
Now, as far as company tax is concerned, over the next three years, if we are returned to government, company tax will come down from 30 per cent to 27 and half (27.5) per cent in the first year for companies with revenues up to $10 million, in the second year up to $50 million and the third year up to a hundred million dollars ($100 million) and then there’ll be another election and then, over the long term, our plan will see company tax coming down to 25 per cent for all companies but, over the next three years, the beneficiaries are going to be small and medium companies, almost all of which would be Australian-owned and most of which, by numbers certainly, will be family-owned. Now, these companies employ millions of Australians. The companies up to $10 million in turnover employ five million Australians and they will all benefit from that support because they will see more investment in their business.
The mandate the Coalition is seeking for the life of this parliament is really about tax reductions for smaller businesses. Voters will get a chance to think about progressing the Coalition’s planned reductions in another three years’ time.
But for now, for those dipping in and out of a campaign which has so far failed to really capture the public’s imagination, Shorten is successfully depicting the policy as “a $50 billion giveaway” which will be beneficial for large companies and and foreign investors, while the near-term benefits to small businesses are being smothered.