Voter angst on tax avoidance and penalty rates
The Abbott government is facing overwhelming angst about the issue of corporate tax avoidance and the threat to weekend penalty rates in a string of seats it must retain to win back government.
Polling obtained by Fairfax Media found more than nine out of 10 people in the NSW bellwether federal seat of Eden Monaro believe the government is not doing enough to ensure large companies pay their fair share of tax.
The issue will take centre stage this week with the first public hearings of the Senate inquiry into tax avoidance. Representatives of Google, Apple, Microsoft, News Corp and miner Glencore are due to appear in front of the committee.
Almost 75 per cent of 707 people polled in Eden Monaro said big companies paid too little tax, while just 3 per cent said they paid too much. In launching the tax white paper process, Treasurer Joe Hockey flagged the need for a corporate tax cut to make the Australian business environment more internationally competitive.
Mr Hockey has plans to extract more tax out of multinationals through a so-called “Google tax” similar to one being introduced in Britain but there have been repeated warnings that aggressive tax minimisation and outright avoidance is wider than just the big names in the tech industry.
The polling, conducted by ReachTel on behalf of the union United Voice, included Bonner in Queensland, Hindmarsh in South Australia, and Swan in Western Australia, all held on thin margins by Liberal MPs.
All four seats would swing to Labor if an election was held this week, according to the polling conducted on March 25.
Eden Monaro’s Liberal MP Peter Hendy would suffer a 7 per cent swing against him, with the two-party preferred result of 57-43 to Labor, ReachTel found.
Ahead of the four-day Easter break when many thousands of people worked for penalty rates, respondents were asked about penalty rates and whether they would work weekends without extra incentive to be away from family and social occasions.
In Eden Monaro, 55 per cent of respondents said they received penalty rates as part of their pay. But 71 per cent said they would not consider working without overtime rates.
Almost 50 per cent of people said weekend rates were “about right” while 41 per cent said they were “too low”.
The Productivity Commission is reviewing penalty rates as part of a wider look at workplace relations. Hospitality bodies like the Australian Hotels Association have called in submissions for the rates applied to be reduced and the term changed to “additional rates”.
United Voice national secretary David O’Byrne said the polling proved that workplace issues and corporate tax were hot button issues with the electorate and would be key battlegrounds of the next election.
“People think hospitality workers are underpaid and they support the principle of penalty rates to compensate for time away from family,” he said.
“Australians vote for fairness which means that the government would face massive political consequences if it considers making changes in this area that hurt workers.”