Reactions from interest groups

Budget Review 2016–17 Index

Indra Kuruppu

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, James Pearson, says the Budget demonstrates that good policy can also be good politics, with its focus on the future while providing real help right now for the ‘engine room of the economy’—small and medium enterprises. The ten-year glide path to a reduced company tax rate would encourage international investment. Local development of enterprises and unincorporated businesses would also benefit through expanding tax discounts. Mr Pearson also welcomed benefits for small and medium enterprises through the increases in the instant asset write-off eligibility threshold and company tax rate at ten million dollar turnover threshold, as well as practical measures to prepare people for employment and provide meaningful work paths. Increasing the 32.5 per cent personal   income tax threshold was a start to addressing tax increases through bracket creep, and Mr Pearson looked forward to this approach continuing. Mr Pearson supported commitments to infrastructure investment and initiatives to ensure compliance with company tax obligations.[1]

Australian Conservation Foundation

The Australian Conservation Fund (ACF) has labelled the Budget as continuing the environmental neglect shown by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and choosing the interests of big polluters over those of the community. It gives as examples that spending on the environment is forecast to fall by 17 per cent in 2019–20; that there is no reform of fossil fuel subsidies that give public money to big polluters and divert resources from health, education and environmental protection; that the $171 million announced for the Great Barrier Reef will not occur until 2019, and at the expense of other environmental programs; subsidised loan facilities for new dam development; and significant cuts to funding for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. While the ACF welcomes funding commitments to the National Carp Control Plan, it is disappointed that there is no clear provision for the Indigenous Ranger programs, no commitment to supporting an energy transition away from coal, and no new money for protected areas or threatened species recovery.[2]

Australian Council of Social Service

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, has welcomed the tightening of superannuation tax concessions and changes to youth employment programs, but identified the failure to strengthen revenue as a major problem that would affect the ability to properly fund health, education and social security. Cuts affecting low income earners include cuts from family payments, income support for young people and paid parental leave as well as Newstart. Dr Goldie was concerned that the deficit reduction over the next four years has come from the spending side, with a decline in revenue, failure to address housing affordability or lift unemployment payments, and failure to address gaps in essential services including legal assistance, early childhood and homelessness services.[3]

Australian Council of Trade Unions

President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ged Kearney, stated that the Budget delivers a golden handshake to $100 million corporations and the top one per cent of income earners through significant tax cuts, while leaving working Australians worse off. In particular, it neglects tax reform in areas such as capital gains tax and negative gearing, while leaving workers to bear the brunt of cuts to health, education and other services over the last three Budgets. Ms Kearney identified a failure to lay out a clear economic vision to generate jobs growth, labelling ‘trickle-down’ logic that corporate tax cuts would create investment or stimulate the economy as a ‘fantasy’. Ms Kearney also raised concerns about the legality and potential for exploitation in the internship program and shortfalls in the ability to address multinational tax evasion.[4]

Australian Industry Group

Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Chief Executive, Innes Willox, considers the Budget to be good for business. The gradual path to restoring the competitiveness of the company tax system will result in immediate benefits to many small to medium-sized businesses as well as improved incentives to invest, which will also create jobs. Measures including extended eligibility to small business tax measures and tax relief for small businesses, together with the increase in the personal income tax threshold, will provide a timely boost to the economy and underwrite improved living standards. Ai Group welcomed measures to address tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, and stated that new pathways to help young people enter the workforce would assist the contribution of businesses to improving long-term employment prospects of eligible young people. Positives include an ongoing commitment to innovation, improving urban and regional transport infrastructure, the continuation of a permanent migration program with a strong focus on skilled migration, and renewed efforts in higher education. The biggest disappointment was significant cuts to the Industry Skills Fund.[5]

Business Council of Australia

Business Council of Australian (BCA) Chief Executive, Jennifer Westacott, says the Budget balances spending restraint with new initiatives to improve the nation’s economic growth prospects and improve education outcomes. There are welcome structural savings, including changes to superannuation tax, and the ten-year enterprise tax plan, which will provide relief for small and medium businesses while signalling to big businesses that their investment will be more competitive in the future. Education measures reflect the government’s commitment to preparing young people for the jobs of the future and deal with unsustainable funding problems in the tertiary system. Infrastructure planning will continue to support higher productivity and better lifestyles for many Australians, and continued implementation of the innovation agenda will strengthen Australia’s comparative advantage as a trusted place to do business. The BCA voiced support for multinational company tax avoidance measures and will encourage members to adopt the voluntary Tax Transparency Code.[6]

National Farmers Federation

National Farmers’ Federation President, Brent Finlay, has welcomed key Budget measures that will benefit agriculture, including new initiatives that build on last year’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and the easing of tax burdens on small business. However, he is angered by the failure to address damage from the controversial backpacker tax, which will affect the backpacker workforce on which the agricultural and tourism industries rely. While Mr Finlay approved of the cash injection for the Inland Rail, he considered it fell short of the funding needed to break ground on the project.[7]



[1].          J Pearson (Chief Executive Officer, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Enterprise Budget fuels the engine room of the economy, media release, 3 May 2016.

[2].          Australian Conservation Foundation, Turnbull's first Budget continues the environmental neglect of his predecessor, media release, 3 May 2016

[3].          C.Goldie (Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Services), Some positive directions, but budget locks in harsh cuts—with more likely to come, media release, 3 May 2016.

[4].         G Kearney (President, Australian Council of Trade Unions), Turnbull fails working Australians and gives golden handshake to big corporations, media release, 3 May 2016.        

[5].         I Willox (Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group), A good for business Budget, media release, 3 May 2016.

[6].         J Westacott (Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia), BCA statement on the 2016-17 federal Budget, media release, 3 May 2016.

[7].         B Finlay (President, National Farmers’ Federation), NFF angered by budget inaction on backpacker tax, media release, 3 May 2016.

 

All online articles accessed May 2016. 

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