Malcolm Turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull issues warning over tax cuts

MALCOLM Turnbull has joined his treasurer in lobbying business chiefs on the importance of the government's plan to slash company taxes or else risk having one of the highest rates in the advanced world.

The prime minister has used a keynote speech to the Business Council of Australia to warn of the risk of being left behind the rest of the world in terms of the competitiveness of its business tax regime.

He pointed to moves in the United State to slash company taxes, saying the United Kingdom already has rates far lower than Australia, while France and Belgium will soon follow suit.

"If we don't reduce our corporate rate to 25 per cent as planned over the coming decade, the only advanced nations that will exceed Australia are Japan and Malta," Mr Turnbull said in Sydney on Monday night.

Earlier, Treasurer Scott Morrison wrote to hundreds of corporate leaders, urging them to take up the fight.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says his party won't budge on the proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent over the next decade. "We are not going to give multinationals a reduction in their tax. We don't think that's the way to go," Mr Shorten told the Nine Network.

"We would rather look after ordinary people than give the top end of town a tax cut." Mr Morrison struck back at the opposition, saying Labor would increase taxes on business and investment.

The treasurer insisted businesses could not afford to sit on the fence in support of the enterprise tax plan.

"I think in the business community, often there's a view that engaging in a debate like this, they'll be pinned as being partisan or something like that," he told the ABC.

"This isn't about partisan interests, this is about the interests of our economy, of which they are a major shareholder in, and the employees they put in a job."

The government has so far legislated a tax cut for businesses with turnovers of up to $50 million, leaving the remainder on a rate of 30 per cent but further cuts face a roadblock in the Senate with Labor and the Greens opposed to the full plan.

"Don't be intimidated out of expressing your view about the need for this being good for the economy because it might upset the Labor Party," Mr Morrison urged business chiefs.

A survey by the council found 81 per cent of CEOs would increase investment if taxes were cut, while 70 per cent said they would hire more staff. "Every day that Australia delays action risks putting us further behind the rest of the world," Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

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