A key federal budget measure, the temporary tax hike on high-income earners, has cleared parliament’s lower house after a long debate in which Labor accused the government of manufacturing a debt crisis.
However, Labor did not vote against the new tax, which guarantees it will be passed by the Senate.
Labor also joined the government in voting down an amendment by independent Cathy McGowan to extend the measure to 2020-21.
The legislative package passed on Wednesday imposes a two per cent tax increase on people earning more than $180,000.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo said the measure would raise $3.1 billion over its four years.
The debate, which lasted several days, became a surrogate for the budget as a whole.
Labor’s main argument was the government’s claims that Australia faced a debt emergency was a fiction and it was using the tax as a fig leaf to pretend the budget was fair, rather than a cruel imposition on the most vulnerable.
Several MPs also said the measure was full of loopholes that would enable the rich to dodge paying the new tax.
Labor’s Jim Chalmers said the measure would not be opposed because the opposition faced even bigger battles, such as protecting Medicare and pensions.
Mr Ciobo, in summing up, said Labor was hypocritical when it railed against the measure while “sweeping it through”.
He said Labor’s policies were unaffordable and the government was doing what was necessary to repair Australia’s unsustainable debt and deficit levels.