Prime Minister Scott Morrison has known since the day he called the election that it would be “unlikely” he could recall Parliament in time to pass his promised $1080 tax cuts before July.
However, the clear risk that Parliament could not be recalled in time was never canvassed or discussed during the election by the Morrison government – or explained to voters.
Instead, Mr Morrison reassured voters twice – before and during the election – the $1080 tax cuts could be paid “administratively” by the Australian Tax Office even before the legislation passed, an option the Morrison government now admits will not occur.
The New Daily has confirmed it was Mr Morrison who proposed the June 28 date for the return of the writs, detailed in his letter to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to formally call the election.
The date, which makes it impossible for Parliament to pass the laws before July 1, is contained in the Prime Minister’s signed letter to the Governor-General that is marked “noted and agreed” by Mr Cosgrove at on April 11 at 6.55 am.
However, it was only two days after the election that the Prime Minister first raised “advice” suggesting it would be difficult to finalise the writs and bring Parliament back before July.
Government sources claim the June 28 date was chosen by the PM in consultation with the Australian Electoral Commission, which privately advised it could not guarantee a finalised vote count before that date.
But the AEC told The New Daily it had not chosen the June 28 date.
“The selection of dates within writs are a matter for the government, not the AEC. This includes the writ return date,” an AEC spokesman said.
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers said it now appeared the Prime Minister intended to break his promise all along.
“The government has made a mess of this from the beginning,” Dr Chalmers said.
“At best they’ve messed it up and at worst they’ve been lying about it. They intended to break this promise all along.”
The morning after the federal budget, Mr Morrison brushed off concerns the legislation would not pass before July 1.
“Well it won’t make a difference whether it’s introduced this week or not,” Mr Morrison told Channel Nine’s Today show on April 3.
“The tax office – if the Labor Party says they support our tax cuts, then the tax office can administer it on that basis.”
However, just five days later the ATO told The New Daily it could not “administer” the tax cuts and would require the law to pass the Senate.
“The ATO requires law in order to deliver the measure as announced, and as such cannot be delivered administratively,” an ATO spokesman said.
Then, on April 17, Treasury also provided advice that appeared at odds with the PM’s public claim the ATO could plan to pay the tax cuts before the laws passed in Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook.
Mr Morrison again suggested there was no problem.
“What happens traditionally with the tax office is where there is a bipartisan commitment to matters, they can often go ahead and administer the tax arrangements on that basis,” he said.
“But it’s certainly our intention to legislate them, mate.”
On Monday, the Treasurer confirmed the tax cuts cannot be paid without legislation.
“To deliver this the Parliament must pass legislation. This will be our No.1 priority when Parliament resumes,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told The New Daily.
It was only on May 20 that the Prime Minister first raised concerns that Parliament could not be recalled before July 1, during an interview on Sky News with Paul Murray.
“We hope to convene the Parliament again as soon as we can,” Mr Morrison said.
“We obviously have to wait for the writs to be returned and there’s a formal process for that at the moment. That’s not looking until very late into the back end of June. So that really does make very narrow that opportunity to do it before the 30th of June. I think that’s very unlikely, with the advice I’ve received.”
On Monday, The New Daily contacted the Prime Minister’s office to confirm when Mr Morrison first received that advice.
The question was referred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which referred the question back to the Prime Minister’s office.
The AEC confirmed that it had never requested the June 28 date but had been advised of that date only after the Prime Minister visited the Governor-General to call the election.
“If you refer to the writs themselves or the election timetable on the AEC website the date of June 28 is clearly marked as ‘on or before’,” an AEC spokesman said.
How the cuts could fall
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday that the promised $1080 tax cuts could be passed “in an hour” if Mr Morrison dumped his demand the ALP support his entire tax package.
The game of brinkmanship now threatens to delay tax cuts the Treasurer and Prime Minister repeatedly promised during the election would be paid from July 1, when workers lodge their returns.
Any delay will not delay the tax cuts for a full year.
If they do not pass when Parliament returns on July 2, the ATO has confirmed it will pay the $1080 in two instalments, with the second $500 payment to be paid automatically to workers who have lodged returns when the laws pass.
Mr Albanese said the government’s demands that Labor now support tax cuts in 2022 and 2024 risked delaying relief for 10 million Australians.
“Well look, we will give consideration to it, but Mathias Cormann should be held to account, as should Scott Morrison, for their commitment,” he said.
“Their commitment was that tax cuts would come into play on July 1. There is no reason why the Parliament can’t sit before July 1, sit for an hour, I’ve made the offer. One Speaker aside in the House.
“Those tax cuts should be delivered and I believe they should be.”
The New Daily contacted the Prime Minister’s Office for comment.