Expect the government’s changes to the stage three tax cuts to be the major talking point out of Canberra this week.
Parliament returns today, and Labor’s tax cut proposal will dominate the agenda.
The government will begin the first legislative session of the year by introducing the tax cuts, which would shave off some benefits that would have flowed to higher-income earners under the previously legislated stage three cuts and distribute that money in the form of tax breaks for lower-income earners.
The opposition has been split on whether it should back the cuts or not, but after a shadow cabinet meeting on Monday evening it appears the leadership is leaning towards backing the cuts. A Liberal partyroom meeting scheduled for 9.30am Tuesday should help clarify the opposition’s position.
“People don’t want to stand in the way of any relief, tax or otherwise, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis,” a Liberal source told Crikey. “On the other hand, there’s the issue of the prime minister committing before the election not to change the policy, and then changing it anyway. There’s no credibility there and people need to be aware of it.”
Or as Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham put it in an interview with ABC News Breakfast this morning: “Our concern is for Australian households, and we want to see every household pay as little tax as possible and get whatever they can in terms of support for the huge pressures they are facing right now.”
Government MPs also met on Monday for a Labor caucus meeting where Prime Minister Anthony Albanese touted the tax changes and welcomed a new senator, Varun Ghosh, who is taking over the WA seat previously held by Indigenous leader Pat Dodson, who retired due to health issues.
Other bills the government wants to debate this week include one that would expand paid parental leave by four weeks — to 26 weeks — by 2026. The bill would also provide each parent four weeks of reserved leave.
On Thursday, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape will address both MPs and Senators in a speech to the Australian Parliament, the first Pacific leader to give such an address.
Later in the week, expect debates about combating foreign bribery and migrant worker exploitation, and about workplace relations and housing.