The Turnbull government is daring to dream its deeply unpopular corporate tax cuts could somehow scrape through federal parliament within the next two weeks.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has so far been unable to muster Senate support for plans to slash the tax rate for companies with revenues above $50 million a year.
On current numbers the legislation appears doomed to fail, with just four of 10 crossbenchers backing the government.
But Senator Cormann is not giving up.
‘We want working families around Australia today and into the future to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead,’ he told Sky News on Friday.
‘That’s why we need to ensure that the businesses that employ them here in Australia have the best possible opportunity to be viable, to be competitive, to be successful and to be profitable into the future.’
Senator Cormann, the government’s chief negotiator in the upper house, said there was always plenty of noise and commentary throughout such long-running debates.
‘What I’ve learned over the years is to just keep working and to try and secure the best possible outcome for Australians,’ he said.
Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch offered to back the cuts but only for companies with turnovers up to $500 million, meaning the big banks will miss out.
Senator Cormann is not taking the bait, believing imposing a cap will provide a ‘perverse incentive’ for businesses to downsize.
He wouldn’t entertain the prospect of a ‘Plan B’.
‘What we want to secure is of course the right incentives for smaller business to become bigger businesses which hire more Australians and pay them better wages over time,’ he said.
After delaying the vote earlier in the year, Senator Cormann promised the tax cuts would be put to the upper house in August.
However, the tax cuts aren’t listed on the Senate agenda for when parliament returns on Monday, leading Labor to warn the Turnbull government is ready to drop them.
‘If Malcolm Turnbull drops the company tax cuts – that he’s spent two years selling as his one point economic plan – he’ll be exposed as standing for absolutely nothing,’ shadow treasurer Chris Bowen told AAP.
Senator Cormann’s spokeswoman said the tax cuts will be dealt with over the sitting fortnight, but not until after debate on restoring the territories’ rights over assisted dying laws.
Some government MPs are pushing for the coalition to dump the policy if the tax cuts fail to pass the Senate by the end of August.