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Budget Statement 2021 (Continued)

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy] There is a Europe-wide campaign to do just that, containing four emergency taxes. Applying those to the Irish economy, the amount of money that could be raised is astounding. A 3% tax on corporate profits exceeding €5 billion would raise over €2 billion. That is €2 billion that could be raised easily without touching the income of a single worker or a small or medium business. A 3% wealth tax on the richest 1% of people in Ireland would raise €3.6 billion. A 1% tax on the assets of investment funds and holding companies, excluding pension funds, would raise €22 billion. Finally, increasing the tax on transfers of assets, excluding shares and residential property, would raise €600 million. That is a total of more than €28 billion, which is enough money to really transform or begin the process of transforming our economy and society. It is the kind of money that could be invested in a green new deal with socialist policies.

These are dark and depressing times for many throughout the country. Ordinary people need to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel and not only can we defeat this virus but we can build a better society, where everybody has the right to a home without breaking the bank, there would be an Irish national health service for when it is required and there would be truly free quality education from preschool to university and a living wage for all. This pandemic has highlighted all the inequalities in our society and the problems in our public services. Decades of underfunding have left our health services hanging by a thread and our classrooms among the most overcrowded in Europe.

This should be a wake-up call that we cannot go on this way and there must no going back to the neoliberal model. Instead, we must take on the super-rich tax avoiders, challenge the rack-renting landlords and tackle the big business polluters. We need a socialist economy where the major wealth and resources are in public instead of private hands and are planned democratically to meet the needs of people and our planet. Of course, this Government refuses to do that. It represents those who benefit from this system. The Government is failing to provide people with a real hope for the future or a vision of how we can crush Covid-19 and rebuild better. For that we are going to need a left Government with socialist policies and mass mobilisation from below.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before the Deputy concludes, I should say that he made reference in his contribution to Mr. Goodman, and there have been many references to Mr. Goodman in this House over many years. Nothing he said was new to us, but I remind the Deputy and the House in general that it is completely at variance with Standing Orders and the standards we hope to implement here to name anybody outside the House.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry There is no argument that this is a big budget, with €86 billion in overall expenditure, an increase of €4 billion in health spending and €19 billion in borrowing next year. Some of the spending is unnecessary, particularly on corporate welfare. There is fair amount of necessary spending that is not included in the budget, and housing is a big part of this. Most of the spending is completely necessary and justifiable but many workers will worry who will pay for all this. Many will wonder if Mr. Keynes is being welcomed in the door next year, will Mr. Friedman be knocking on the door in 2022 or 2023.

The spending splurge must be paid for by those who profited most from the Covid-19 crisis and who also happened to be those in society who are best able to afford to pay for this. These are the super-rich. UBS bank estimates that billionaires increased their wealth 27.5% globally between April and July at precisely the time when tens of millions of working people lost their jobs and were pushed into poverty. A 10% levy on the profits of the big pharmaceutical companies and private hospitals in this State would raise an extra €2 billion. A 1.5% on the richest 5% in this State, leaving aside the first €1 million, would raise €3.8 billion. Collecting corporation tax at an actual rate of 12.5% would raise a multiple of that amount as 34% of corporations pay zero tax in this State, with 32% paying less than €20,000, which is less than the income tax paid by some workers in this country. Collecting corporation tax at an actual rate of 12.5% could raise up to an extra €20 billion. The corporation tax rate on profits should not be 12.5% but it should be 25%. There is a vast amount of wealth there and no need for the working people to pay for this in two years through austerity, tax increases or cutbacks.

I will make a couple of points about youth unemployment as this will be an increasing issue in our society. I want to raise some questions on the measures the Government has adopted in this regard. Taking the number of people under 25 who are officially unemployed and on the pandemic unemployment payment, we would come close to 100,000 people. The Government suggests tackling this through a programme of apprenticeships and training. I am all in favour of training but I am not in favour of so-called training that functions as a cover for exploitation and cheap labour. We need much more discussion on Skills Connect, which is something we will hear much more about in the next while.

There are 80,000 training places and internships in cybersecurity, software programming, medical technology, digital marketing and customers services etc. What will those young people be paid? An internship that provides 24 hours of work will see a young person paid €229. The jobseeker's allowance is €203, so is the Government saying that in return for 24 hours of work, a company must top up this pay by €26? This is €1.08 per hour, which is worse than the scandal we had in relatively recent years with JobBridge. We need decent training with decent pay and conditions and trade union rights. It looks with this proposal that the Government is aiming to go down a very different road.

Young people are a large cohort of the people in this State on minimum wage. The Government is proposing an increase of 10 cent per hour in the minimum wage, which amounts to less than 1%. Low-paid workers, many of them young, were among the heroes of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown earlier this year. They did the retail and cleaning jobs, delivered pizzas and so on.

A group comes together to estimate what is known as the living wage every year. It is a decency threshold, a standard below which it is estimated it is not possible to have a decent life or standard of living in this country. The latest figure was €12.30. The Government is proposing that the lowest-paid workers in this country would live on more €2 per hour less than figure. It is a scandal. The minimum wage should be €15 per hour. I encourage low-paid and young workers to get organised and challenge the Government's low pay agenda.

I sat in court No. 3 of the High Court this morning and saw an injunction being granted to KPMG against ex-Debenhams workers. That injunction is a blow against the right to picket effectively. Those ex-Debenhams workers will not roll over but will carry on a campaign of effective picketing. As a result of this injunction, many of these people, who are overwhelmingly women, may find themselves in the days and weeks to come before the High Court and threatened with the prospect of the jailhouse.

These workers are very clear on the matter and lay the blame on this Government and at the door of the Fianna Fáil Party in particular and the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin.

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