Extract from The Guardian
The newly installed South Australian independent senator, Tim Storer, says he isn’t about backroom horse-trading, but he has identified achieving a boost to the Newstart payment as a key objective of his period in federal politics.
Storer this week forced the Turnbull government to hit pause on its much vaunted big business tax cut, refusing to sign on until the Coalition countenanced broader tax and policy reform to accompany its proposal to cut the corporate rate from 30% to 25%.
In a broad-ranging interview with Guardian Australia, Storer said he intended to assess all legislation on its merits rather than engaging in horse-trading, but he said he was clear about what he wanted to achieve during his time in Canberra.
He said a boost to Newstart was a priority. “For me, it is a priority that I would like to take forward,” Storer said.
“I’ve got 500 days from when I was declared as a senator to the end of the period. There will be an election in that of course, but yes, [boosting Newstart] is an issue I wish to take forward.
“It’s obviously of personal interest to me. I’ve been struck by the implications over the last 25 years,” he said, adding that governments of all stripes were responsible for the current suboptimal level of the benefit.
“Newstart has shrunk against average wages, median wages and the minimum wage and the pension. There are groups such as the Business Council of Australia, as well as KPMG and the Australian Council of Social Service and economists like Chris Richardson who have all made calls to link it with wages and increase it.”
Storer said the Turnbull government’s standard response to arguments that the benefit was currently too low was to point out that Newstart recipients often received other forms of government payments, but he said even when that was taken into account, people were falling “$96 dollars short of the absolute minimum required to cover the basic cost of living”.
The new senator also nominated accountability and transparency in government as a significant preoccupation. He said that policy interest drew him to Nick Xenophon. Storer was aligned with the NXT before splitting with them, and taking his place as an independent replacing Skye Kakoschke-Moore when she was felled by last year’s dual citizenship fracas.
Storer also identifies an interest in trade and tourism and public infrastructure investment, as well as business development and transformation, to promote economic growth in South Australia and nationally.
Storer is an economist, with an MBA from the Australian National University. He speaks fluent Mandarin, and before politics, ran an Asia-focused consultancy.
Asked to summarise his political philosophy and values, Storer said he wants to promote “prosperity and fairness” during his period in public life, and will bring that rubric to considering legislation in his cross bench role.
On the company tax cut, Storer said he was concerned the big business relief being proposed by the Coalition was inconsistent with the government’s medium-term fiscal strategy and provided only “modest economic benefits, relative to its cost”.
He said the Henry tax review recommended a 25% tax rate for companies “but there were six or seven other signature reforms, which I believe have not been acted upon”.
Storer suggested it would be hard to get him over the line on the company tax cut, given his current concerns, but if the government came back with a revised proposal “I will review what is put before me as a senator in legislation in the chamber”.