Government concedes defeat, shelves company tax cuts for now

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had failed to get enough cross-bench support

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had failed to get enough cross-bench support Photo: AAP

The government has shelved a bill that would slash company tax rates for big business for the second time this year, saying it does not have the numbers to get the changes through the Senate.

The bill, one of the Turnbull government’s flagship policies, would mean the tax rates for Australia’s biggest companies, as well multinationals, were slashed from 30 per cent to 25 per cent.

To pass it into law, the government needs eight crossbench votes. So far, it has only four.

“We have not yet been able to secure the necessary support,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said on Thursday, the last day of parliament before the winter break.

“We need more time to make our arguments to our colleagues on the Senate crossbench.”

Senator Cormann said the government would bring the bill back to the Senate after the five by-elections in late July.

“Who knows? We might have a more business-friendly Labor leader, all sorts of things could be different after the by-elections,” he said.

He declined to answer a question about whether One Nation senator Pauline Hanson had indicated she might be more open to supporting the tax cuts after Queensland’s Longman by-election, which her party will contest.

Labor opposes the business tax cuts, and has been pressuring Senator Hanson hard not to vote for them.

Senator Hanson, who controls two votes, appears to have hardened her regularly-shifting stance, telling the government to take the package to an election.

“We very much urge One Nation not to cave at the last minute,” Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said before the government announced the hold.

The two Centre Alliance senators oppose the cuts and their views haven’t budged for months.

Centre Alliance candidate Rebekha Sharkie is contesting a lower house by-election in Mayo, where support for a company tax cut is only about 25 per cent.

Independent senators Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer also remain opposed.

Senator Cormann said the government would keep negotiating with senators, including cracking down further on multinational tax avoidance to appease Senator Hanson.

The earliest the company tax cuts can return to parliament is August 13.

– with AAP

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