Bill Shorten says small business breaks are 'camouflage for a massive tax cut to big multinationals'

Bill Shorten. Source: screenshot

Labor leader Bill Shorten delivered the opposition’s budget reply on Thursday night, a pitch to voters for the July 2 election.

After a number of elections where the differences between the Coalition and the ALP were hard to find, Shorten has offered a starker contrast between the Turnbull government and Labor.

Shorten is claiming $71 billion in savings over 10 years by capping vocational education loans, blocking the government’s company tax cut for big business, and reinstating the deficit levy scrapped in Tuesday’s budget.

The biggest saving will come from Labor’s proposal to limit negativing gearing to new housing stock from July 2017, claiming $32 billion over the decade.

Shorten cited education and health as the cornerstones of Labor policy.

“The markers we set for the future of Australia: jobs, education, Medicare, climate change, affordable housing and fair taxation, equality for women, our belief in young Australians,” he said.

Shorten committed $37 billion to schools and took aim at the burgeoning private training sector, pledging to restore integrity following a series of scandals and rorting accusations, in part by capping training loans.

“A Labor government will cap vocational education loans at $8000 per student. We will cut this wasteful spending, saving an estimated $6 billion over the decade,” he said.

Labor claims the cost of the VET loans scheme has grown from $700 million in 2013 to more than $3 billion last year. The $8000 cap will not apply to the government-run TAFE system, which Shorten publicly backed.

Last week, the Turnbull government announced a review of the sector following a number of scandals which VET minister Scott Ryan admitted made the current scheme “a disaster for taxpayers”.

The ALP leader’s reply was a spirited defence of his own party against those he seeks to portray as “Malcolm’s millionaires”.

“It is not class war for Labor to speak up on behalf of everyone this government has forgotten and betrayed: women, young people, pensioners, carers and veterans,” he said.

Shorten teased Turnbull about adopting Labor’s own policies saying “never has an opposition had so many of its policies adopted by a government with so few”.

Labor wants to limit the government’s business tax cut to companies with a turnover of less than $2 million dollars, with Shorten singling out the likes of Coles, the CBA and Goldman Sachs, saying “they don’t need a taxpayer subsidy which Australia cannot afford to pay”.

“Labor will support a tax cut for small business – but unlike the Prime Minister – we will not use this as camouflage for a massive tax cut to big multinationals,” Shorten said.

“We will deliver tax relief for the small businesses representing 83% of all Australian companies.”

He claimed the government’s plan would cost taxpayers $49 billion over the decade.

But Labor will also oppose the government’s superannuation changes targeting the wealthy “on principle”.

Labor committed to a $10 billion infrastructure loan fund to “turbo-charge” public transport.

“Instead of taking selfies on the train, we’ll get new projects under way,” Shorten said.

The Labor leader said his party would save $1.4 billion by repealing the Nationals’ new Baby Bonus and another $1 billion by abolishing the Direct Action.

He also committed to marriage equality within 100 days of forming government.

Bill Shorten’s full speech is here.

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