The Turnbull government has given up on passing corporate tax cuts this week, but will make a fresh attempt in the May Budget week.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told the Senate on Tuesday afternoon the government had been unable to convince nine crossbenchers to get behind the bill to reduce the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent across all-sized businesses.
Independents Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer have yet to lend their support to the bill, leaving the coalition with only seven of the nine crossbench votes it needs.
“We believe there is opportunity for the government to persuade the majority of senators of the merits of our argument … that is why the government is committed to keep working, to keep engaging,” Senator Cormann said.
The minister, who has previously been successful in negotiating other key pieces of legislation, said the cuts were in the interests of working families because they would pay for jobs and higher wages.
Labor frontbencher Don Farrell told parliament it was an opportunity for crossbenchers to reflect on their decision to support the bill.
“That’s not the way we create equality in this country. It won’t trickle down to those people who really need a wage rise in the current environment,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Shorten confirmed a Labor government would scrap the tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of more than $50 million.
However, Labor has yet to make a decision on what it will do about the already legislated cuts for small firms.
“Labor will consider its final position on that in the context of the information we receive in the budget,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
“What we are not going to do is promise business corporate tax cuts which this government cannot pay for.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the opposition wants to go to the election on a platform of “fewer jobs and less well-paid jobs”.
“Their latest policy on company tax is no more well calibrated than their shocking cash grab on pensioners,” he told parliament, referring to Labor’s plan to end cash handouts for non-taxpaying shareholders on their dividend credits, which was subsequently amended on Tuesday to protect pensioners from the change.
One Nation senator Pauline Hanson reiterated her party’s support for the tax cuts while predicting Labor wouldn’t deliver on its promise to ditch them in government.
“It will be political suicide for them if they do,” she told reporters in Canberra.
But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the reductions for firms above $50 million were neither “justifiable or affordable”.
“These changes don’t come in until 2019 and so it is appropriate that we are up-front about our plans and we’re doing that today,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio.
The latest Essential Research poll suggests voters have become ho-hum over the whole issue with 40 per cent backing the cuts, 30 per cent opposing and the remainder ticking ‘don’t know’.