Workers a step closer to tax relief as the government’s cuts clear first hurdle

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

Scott Morrison’s $158 billion tax relief plan has passed the first hurdle in the House of Representatives, with Labor voting for it but reserving the right to amend it in the Senate.

In a sign of the Morrison government’s growing confidence that entire tax package will pass Parliament this week, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann moved a motion the Senate sit until it had passed the tax cuts.

Tellingly, the motion was supported by Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie and Centre Alliance, the three votes required to pass the tax cuts in full.

While the Centre Alliance has said it is “close” to a deal, Senator Lambie has remained enigmatic. The government needs just three more votes to close the deal.

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers speaks during the tax relief debate. Photo: AAP

Labor’s tax joke

Labor leader Anthony Albanese told The New Daily last night that the decision to vote for the tax legislation in the House of Representatives was procedural and did not undermine his support for amendments to bring forward the tax cuts.

“We were just facilitating debate. Our amendments, we will be pursuing them in the Senate. We are fighting for bigger tax cuts sooner,” he said.

Mr Albanese also confirmed Labor was talking to the Senate crossbench to seek support for its amendments.

Labor wants to support $1080 tax cuts for workers now and bring forward tax cuts planned for 2022 but delay the final stage of the tax cuts.

But to bring forward the tax cuts Labor would need four votes – One Nation, Senator Lambie and Senator Cory Bernardi.

Senator Bernardi appeared to rule that out, confirming he “will vote with the government”.

Earlier, Mr Albanese seized on the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to again cut interest rates as a sign the economy was weak.

“Today’s decision by the Reserve Bank screams that that’s good policy in 2019. The government should do it,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is a cry for help from the Reserve Bank. They’ve acted now on monetary policy for two months in a row.’’

Mr Albanese also moved to change the name of the legislation, which the PM has chosen to call the (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019.

Labor wanted to change that to add ‘But Not For A Really Long Time’, a “joke” in reference to the fact the big tax cuts are not phased in for five years.

The amendments failed and the ALP then voted with the Morrison government to pass the legislation just after 9pm and send it to the Senate.

The only MPs to vote against the tax package were the Greens’ Adam Bandt and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie.

Centre Alliance confirms deal ‘close’ on gas

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick said the deal he was negotiating with the Morrison government included a range of measures to put downward pressure on gas prices.

They include a new cap on gas exports and measures to ensure there is a surplus of gas in Australia under existing contracts to lower prices.

The crossbench remains concerned the tax cuts will get gobbled up in rising energy prices.

“Yes I expect the gas industry to not like what’s going to happen but they have been behaving like a cartel,’’ he told The New Daily. “This is an intervention in a broken market.’’

Senator Patrick also confirmed the concessions Centre Alliance have negotiated will be dealt with separately and will not involve amendments to the tax bills.

Albanese reassures LGBTI community

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese also moved to reassure the gay and lesbian community that he remains an ally after The New Daily reported he wanted to “gut” the platform and used the example of the proliferation of references to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.

Mr Albanese did not deny using the example in shadow cabinet but insisted it was entirely wrong to suggest he wanted to remove references from the ALP platform because it implied he was not committed to removing all forms of discrimination.

“It’s been interpreted as I want to get all references to LGBTI out of platform which is not true,” he told The New Daily.

“What happens over a period of time is that the (ALP) platform gets bigger and bigger until a decision is made to wind it back.

“It’s normal that after every few conferences people reduce the platform without reducing the meaning of the platform. After every conference, you need to go back and cut it back.”

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