Katina Curtis and Marnie Banger
(Australian Associated Press)
Australians earning up to $90,000 look set to get an extra $1000 back in tax within weeks, with the federal government on the verge of winning the Senate support it needs for stage one of its tax package.
The $158 billion package will be the priority piece of legislation to be introduced to the 46th parliament this week after the ceremonial fanfare ends on Tuesday.
The extra tax relief is set to be waved through the lower house, where the Morrison government has a majority.
Then all eyes will be on the Senate, where the government needs the support of four out of six crossbenchers to get its package over the line.
The two Centre Alliance senators are likely to back it, with leader Rex Patrick saying they were working through the final details of a deal to bring down gas prices and make sure the extra money in taxpayers’ pockets doesn’t get gobbled up by higher power bills.
“We can’t see any roadblocks but there’s a few bumps that need to be smoothed out,” he told Sky News.
Former Liberal Cory Bernardi also backs the tax relief package, leaving the government just one vote short.
This means returning Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie is likely to be the deal maker or breaker, but she’s yet to declare her hand.
She is working with Centre Alliance in a very loose alignment, with the three senators meeting several times over the last 24 hours since arriving in Canberra.
Senator Patrick said part of the deal was that he and colleague Stirling Griff don’t talk about Senator Lambie’s position.
“It’s about picking up the phone and saying ‘Where do you sit on this bill?’ and if she’s very close to us we’ll say ‘Right, let’s work as a group of three because that’s quite a powerful number in the Senate’,” he said.
“If she has a different view, we’ll say ‘best of luck’ and she’ll operate independently to us.”
Senator Lambie told reporters she hadn’t come to a position yet, saying her staff only started work on Monday and she hadn’t had enough information from the government.
“I haven’t even got a paper and a pen in my office yet,” she said.
Labor is offering to support extra tax relief but only if the second stage of the package is brought forward and the third stage is shelved.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese insists Labor won’t stop fighting to split the coalition’s bill.
But Senator Griff argues there’s no use entertaining Labor’s position, given the government has refused to budge on its three-stage plan, describing it as an all-or-nothing proposition.
“We certainly don’t want to hold back these tax cuts because they are really critical to help give a boost to the economy,” he said.
Some opposition MPs have urged the party to back the full tax relief package.
The Greens implored Labor and the crossbench to stand firm if the Senate was forced to vote on the entire package.
“We don’t need to be giving tax cuts to millionaires, to CEOs, to politicians; we need to be funding essential services,” leader Richard Di Natale told reporters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he is very confident the government will be able to get its bills through parliament.
The first stage of the plan will deliver up to $1080 to low and middle-income earners when they lodge their tax returns in coming months.
The second stage will top up a low-income tax offset, which means more people – earning up to $45,000 instead of $41,000 – will get a 19 per cent tax rate.
The final stage flattens the tax rate from 32.5 per cent to 30 per cent for people earning between $45,000 and $200,000 from mid-2024.