Bill Shorten is paving the way for a federal election fought on company tax cuts, confirming Labor would repeal the Turnbull government’s corporate rate reduction if the legislation passes this week.
The Senate is still considering the company tax plan with the government scrambling to get senators Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer on board before the Wednesday night deadline.
Mr Shorten said Labor would go to the next election promising to scrap the legislation, which would reduce the corporate rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for businesses with a turnover over $50 million.
“Regardless of what legislation is passed this week, Labor will repeal this corporate tax giveaway of $65 billion to the biggest companies in Australia, the banks and the multinationals,” he said.
He confirmed Labor would wait until the May budget before revealing its position on the tax cuts for businesses with a turnover up to $50 million, which passed the Senate last year.
The government’s entire tax package, which staggers the reduction in the corporate rate until it reaches 25 per cent, would cost the budget $65 billion in revenue.
The remaining tax cuts for the largest businesses – with a turnover above $50 million – are worth about $36 billion of that total $65 billion figure.
When asked on Tuesday Treasurer Scott Morrison was tightlipped about whether the government would be able to win over senators Storer and Hinch by the end of the sitting week.
“We haven’t concluded in negotiations for the final package, and if we’re about to get there this will be a very good outcome,” he told Sky News.
Mr Morrison claimed Labor knew the tax package was “good policy” and was only opposing it to play politics.
The government is understood to have granted One Nation a $60 million apprenticeships trial program to win Pauline Hanson’s support for the cuts.
Senator Hinch is said to be seeking political cover in the form of more funding for pensioners and housing affordability measures before he considers supporting the bill.
Mr Shorten also seized on a report in the Australian Financial Review that said 80 per cent of companies responded to a secret survey from the Business Council of Australia (BCA) by saying they would use the proceeds of a tax cut to invest back in the company or boost returns to shareholders.
Only 20 per cent would boost wages or create more jobs, the report said.
Mr Shorten said it showed “what a lie this whole corporate tax policy is built upon”.
The BCA has played down the significance of the survey, saying it was never completed and the response rate had been low.
Ramping up efforts to lobby the crossbench, the BCA released a letter last week that included a commitment from 10 major companies to invest the proceeds of a tax cut back in Australia.
The government wants to pass the legislation before Wednesday so it can be factored into the May budget.