Australia must follow the United States in slashing corporate tax rates or risk losing jobs and investment to other parts of the world, the country’s top economic ministers have warned.
The federal government is restating its pitch to reduce the company tax rate for all businesses from 30 per cent to 25 per cent after similar moves in the US.
“We need to ensure that our businesses have the best possible opportunity to succeed. We can’t leave them with this excessive lead in their saddle bag,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News on Thursday.
“The future job security, the future career prospects, the future wage increases of Australian workers depend on the Australian parliament passing a more competitive business tax rate here in Australia.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the ground had shifted since the government first announced its plan.
“Now it is not a question of getting ahead. Now it is a question of not falling behind.”
Treasury has warned the federal government it must respond to the US move or else suffer a one per cent hit to Australia’s economic growth.
Failing to act could trigger a significant recessionary impact and force downward pressure on revenue, harming the sustainability of the tax base and the provision of essential services, the Treasury briefing said.
The Treasury analysis described the “broken nexus” between Australia and other OECD countries, and urged the Turnbull government to implement the next round of corporate tax cuts or cop a whack to the budget.
Mr Morrison and Senator Cormann both sought to use the Treasury modelling as ammunition against the Labor Party, which opposes big business tax cuts.
“If Bill Shorten decides to continue to stand in the way of a business tax rate of 25 per cent in Australia, he is making a decision to wilfully damage the Australian economy,” Senator Cormann said.
But Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh said Australia must not follow Donald Trump like lemmings off a cliff.
Independent analysis shows the Trump tax cuts would hurt the deficit, be paid for by the middle class, and not tangibly add to economic growth.
Dr Leigh said there were clear similarities with the Turnbull government’s plan.
“Labor believes in closing tax loopholes, not giving the big end of town a huge corporate tax cut,” he said.
Ben Oquist, from the left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute, said the corporate tax cuts would increase inequality and only benefit foreign multinationals and investors.
“It’s an international race to the bottom that serves a few, and not the economy overall, or society overall,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“Less revenue for the government means less spending on health, education, social services, and more money for the big end of town. That’s less for ordinary Australians, and more for wealthy Australians.”
The institute has released polling from three of the richest seats in Australia – Wentworth, Warringah and Kooyong – which shows the majority of voters are against tax relief for the big end of town.