House debates

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Matters of Public Importance


3:19 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for McMahon proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government's failure to deliver inclusive growth.

I call upon all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:20 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

As the government continues its obsession with witch-hunts and with taxpayer-funded smear campaigns, there are big issues that the government should be addressing in this House and should be addressing when it comes to policy. Economic growth is very important amongst them. We've had 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth, which is a great achievement for Australia. We on this side of the House know that this economic growth has lifted people out of poverty and turned aspiration into reality, and driving economic growth is part of our mission in public life, because we want to see people move from poverty into better circumstances and we want to see aspiration return to reality. That's why this side of the House, the Labor Party, engaged in those reforms of the 1980s and 1990s to see those 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth. That's why this side of the House kept Australia out of recession in the face of the most difficult economic circumstances that had been faced in 70 years, under the treasurership of the member for Lilley. That's what we believe in: economic growth. That's what drives our economic policy.

We know also that that growth needs to be inclusive, and I was glad to see the Productivity Commission this week agree. The Productivity Commission said in their report on economic growth:

A key issue will be to ensure that future economic, social and environmental policies sustain inclusive growth …

Opposition members: Hear, hear!

'Hear, hear,' this side of the House said. That sits well with this side of the House. It doesn't sit so well with those opposite, because they don't know what it means. When we say they don't know what it means, we mean it, because they say they don't know what it means. Just last week, the member for Jagajaga was talking about inclusive growth and she said:

We need social investment in our people and in health and education, inclusive growth …

Did the other side say, 'Hear, hear'? No. The member for Mitchell said, 'What does that even mean?' He didn't know what inclusive growth meant. For the benefit of the House, we'll explain it. Inclusive growth means ensuring that every Australian, regardless of their background, regardless of their educational experience and regardless of their parents' wealth, is able to contribute to that growth, is invested in to grow to their full potential and is included in the benefits of that growth. To spell it out, that's what inclusive growth means.

We on this side of the House have understood that. We've understood that for a long time. In 2008, the Labor government ensured that investment in our people, human capital, was at the centre of the COAG Reform Agenda. We wrote it in. We got the agreement of the states. The other side of the House came to office and ripped that up in that document which is known as the 2014 budget. They ripped into health, ripped into education and ripped into investments in our people. That's what that side of the House believe in. What we had is five wasted years when it comes to growth which includes all Australians.

We've seen this week the Productivity Commission report. It's a lengthy report, a substantial report. It was best summed up, perhaps, by Phil Coorey on the front page of the Financial Review this week. He said:

The report and speech will more closely mimic Labor's inclusive growth strategy, which is based on a smarter, healthier population.

We're happy to lead the debate. We're happy to set the agenda. We thought, 'Well, maybe this is an opportunity for the government to finally get it, to get the message and to understand what inclusive growth looks like.' I listened to what the Treasurer had to say in response to the Productivity Commission inquiry. He went out and he made a speech, and what was his big message out of the Productivity Commission inquiry? What was the big message that he took away that was going to influence government policy?

He said, 'This makes us even more determined to pass our corporate tax cuts'—inclusive trickle-down from the Treasurer! I thought: 'Maybe I've missed something. I'll go and double-check the report to find where the report recommends $65 billion be spent on corporate tax cuts.' Well, they go to tax. They talk about land tax. They talk about stamp duty. They talk about alcohol tax. There are 28 recommendations, but not one of them says to cut corporate tax. Not one of them in this Productivity Commission review says we should cut corporate tax.

What we know from the government and their plans is that they intend to have a $65 billion hit to the budget bottom line over the next decade. That is their one trick. That $65 billion is the one bullet they have in their locker. It's not even as if the government actually believe in lower tax. No, they don't believe in lower tax; they believe in different tax. They don't believe in shrinking tax; they believe in changing tax. To give them their credit, they're very happy on the government benches today because they just passed through this House a $44 billion tax rise on working Australians. They are very pleased. Who's paying that tax rise? Every Australian who earns more than the princely sum of $21,000 a year. They're the people who will pay more tax as the government reduce corporate tax. They are shifting the burden onto every Australian.

This comes at a time when many of those same Australians who are earning low and middle incomes are getting a cut to their wages because they work on the weekend. It comes at the same time as they are dealing with record-low wages growth. It comes at the same time as they're dealing with a massive increase in electricity prices as confirmed today in the inflation figures. And the government say, 'You should be grateful because we're going to get you a 50c-a-week saving.' That's what they get at the same time as people will pay more through the increase in tax. A person on $55,000 a year will pay an extra $275 in tax. A person on $80,000 will pay $400 a year. The Treasurer likes to boast about the tax cuts he introduced last year. Somebody on $85,000 would have been better off if he did absolutely nothing. This is their idea of inclusive growth.

And all this means that their big plan, paid for by Australian workers—well, almost paid for, because the tax cut costs $65 billion and the Medicare levy raises $44 billion, so they've still got a gap—is shifting the tax burden all for the sake of growing our economy by one per cent in 20 years time. That's their big plan. The same plan will increase wages by $2 a day in 20 years time. That's what they've got.

There's a better way: investing in schools and investing in vocational education and training, which was the centrepiece of the Leader of the Opposition's budget reply. And we see this in this Productivity Commission report. You look through this report, and you see recommendations which go to health and education. You see the Productivity Commission say:

Health inequalities and educational underperformance present big opportunities for Australia.

We get it. We know that, if you have a better and fairer school-funding model, you're actually investing in Australians regardless of where they live, regardless of how wealthy their parents are, and we want them included. We want them included in contributing to the growth. We want them included in benefiting from the growth. We want their contribution, and we want them to benefit from our economic growth going forward. You don't get that from a $65 billion trickle-down tax cut. You get that from investing in people. You get that from investing in vocational education and training, lifelong learning, helping Australians build their skills and adapt to the changing workforce. That is the first priority when it comes to vocational education and training.

The economy is changing and changing rapidly. We want to give Australians the skills they need to prosper, not to suffer, in that changing economy. In regional economies in Central and North Queensland, in South Australia and Tasmania, we want them benefiting from that economic growth. We want them contributing to it and benefiting from it. Does the government $65 billion tax cut do that? No, and neither does the Medicare levy increase do that. Neither of those plans involves inclusive growth. You can't deliver inclusive growth if you don't know what it is, if you don't understand what it means, if you just don't get it as a concept, as a principle. I feel sorry for some members of the government; they don't understand what inclusive growth is. Well, I'll tell you what inclusive growth looks like: it looks like growth delivered by a reforming Labor government, a government which is actually prepared to make difficult decisions and lead the reform debate from opposition and then from government. We have a government that is out of touch and out of puff, a government that is born to rule, a government that doesn't believe in inclusive growth, a government that will be replaced at the next election.

3:30 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not sure who to believe—the shadow Treasurer who was just at the dispatch box or the Chris Bowen who wrote Hearts & Minds: A Blueprint for Modern Labor, in which he spoke eloquently about corporate tax cuts. I don't think I believe either of them. We've got to remember that this shadow Treasurer was the worst immigration minister this country has ever seen—25,000 people arrived on his watch. This is the man whose great idea was Cash for Clunkers, that absolutely outstanding piece—

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It was his idea! It was a great idea—I don't think it ever happened! What about Fuelwatch? Whatever happened to Fuelwatch? But what happens in the Labor Party when you're the worst immigration minister this country has ever seen and you come up with absolutely crazy schemes like Fuelwatch? You get a promotion.

But to be a bit more serious about the substance of this MPI: the Labor Party take growth for granted; that's the problem. They think there is a God-given right for this country to have growth, that we don't have to work hard for it and that the government doesn't have to put in place policies that encourage growth. This is the position of Labor. I feel for the shadow Treasurer. I suspect he's a patriot, but every time good economic data comes out, he goes hiding. He can't speak about it. It's almost as though he's desperate for some bad economic data—and it's not coming. In the last 12 months, jobs have grown by 371,000. In the last 12 months, 371,000 Australians have found a job. Importantly, when we talk about inclusive growth—so called—315,000 of those 370,000 jobs are full-time jobs. A job is what gives people the best start they can possibly have in life. The Labor Party think you can take growth for granted. They think that we have a God-given right to all of the investment that creates those jobs without doing any of the hard work to make it happen.

The Labor Party think that those in small business just open the shop and the customers just roll in and the profits just roll in. Otherwise, how could you explain why Labor believes that a small business with a turnover of just over $2 million should be treated the same as Apple and Google and be denied a tax cut? In a number of interviews on television today, we saw Labor MPs evading questions about what they will do with these small business tax cuts. I think we know what it means. It means that, if a Labor government were elected, small businesses would pay higher taxes. According to the Labor Party, small businesses are doing it easy. Well, I can tell the shadow Treasurer, I can tell the Labor Party, that small family businesses fight for every single dollar of profit. Small businesses pay the rent first, the employees second, the suppliers third and the tax fourth. They pay themselves last. So, when we can give them a tax cut, hopefully they can invest and grow that business. We know that a lot of the jobs growth I have spoken about here—the 371,000 jobs in the last 12 months—has come from the small to medium enterprise sector. This is the place that is creating opportunity for Australians. These are the sorts of businesses that create the growth, the inclusive growth, that the shadow Treasurer talks about.

Words are cheap. Words are absolutely cheap. You've got to do the hard work to encourage small businesses and encourage Australians to create the economic growth that can deliver these opportunities. We can't take it for granted, and the Labor Party thinks we can. Yes, we've had 26 years of uninterrupted growth, and 17 of those years were stewarded by coalition governments. We've got a shadow Treasurer who often evokes the memories of Keating and Hawke. In fact, he jumped the shark by evoking John Howard a few months ago. John Howard's not as charitable about you as you are about him. The legacy that you are claiming is one that you are completely repudiating. The legacy that you are supposedly proud of, you are completely repudiating. You have now gone back to a pre-Hawke-Keating era of thinking that says, 'You encourage more investment and therefore create more wealth for Australians and therefore create more opportunities for Australians by having a higher corporate tax rate than our competitors.' That is plainly wrong. Page 63 of this fantastic book, Hearts & Minds: A Blueprint for Modern Labor actually says it. There's a very big heading here. It's in bold. It's not a particularly lengthy tome, but there's a bold heading here: 'Promoting growth through cutting company tax'.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I'm loath to interrupt, but he's reading from a document. I'm wondering if he could table the book. It's a good book.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no point of order. The member for Chifley will resume his seat. I give the call to the assistant minister.

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I say to the honourable member: it's pretty easy to get your hands on one of these. They're only a couple of bucks, just in the bargain bin at the front of bookstores. They're not that hard to find.

'Promoting growth through cutting company tax'. What has happened between then and now? I think I know what's happened between then and now. Bill Shorten's become leader of the party, and the Left is large and in charge of the Labor Party. What is sad is that someone like the shadow Treasurer has not been able to stand up to them—someone like the shadow Treasurer, who evokes the memories of Hawke and Keating, who cut company taxes, is now someone who wants higher company taxes and higher taxes on small family businesses. This is a man who wants small businesses with a turnover between $2 million and $10 million to be denied tax cuts and be denied the ability to access concessions like the instant asset write-off. They are not rich people. They are not Apple and Google. They are small businesses that might have one, two or three employees; small businesses that treat their employees more like family members than employees. But he wants to deny them a tax cut. He hurts not only those small businesses but also their employees, because, if those small businesses are doing it tough, then it's harder to provide the opportunities for inclusive growth that he talks about.

Speaking of growth, in the last quarter we had growth at 0.8 per cent in one quarter. It must be hard, it must be tough, as someone in the role of shadow Treasurer. Every time some good economic data comes out, he is torn. I'm sure that, as a patriot, he thinks this is great for the country—good on the coalition government for delivering 0.8 per cent growth—but he's torn. He can't say it. It must be a very difficult position to be in.

We've also seen the dividends for the government, and we've seen dividends for the country due to the encouragement of growth under this government. We saw the final budget figures come in at $4.4 billion better than expected. This is very important. This is the first time since the last Costello budget, the last coalition government budget before the rabble of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, where we've exceeded expectations, and this was delivered under Treasurer Morrison's watch. We have exceeded expectations. It's very important because, unlike the Labor Party, we underpromise and overdeliver. That is what that shows.

Opposition members interjecting

The Labor Party might think that $4.4 billion is a trifling amount worth laughing at, but we think that is extraordinarily important and absolutely telling. The economy is seeing growth and strength in a way that we have not seen since the Howard and Costello government. But we've got a lot more to do and we cannot take it for granted. The Labor Party thinks we can take it for granted and thinks that we can tax our way to prosperity. It's false. I say to the shadow Treasurer: we don't want you bringing what you brought to the immigration portfolio in government to this debate. (Time expired)

3:40 pm

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the assistant minister for his dissertation on growth. I would suggest there's a lot of content in that that's debatable. He seems to have forgotten the bit that's called inclusive growth, so I'd encourage him to have a bit of a look at some of the other economic outcomes that are currently facing this country that might enlighten him around issues such as stagnant wages growth. In the last two hours or so we've had a really interesting indication of where exactly those opposite are on inclusive growth. Perhaps the shadow Treasurer could follow up his book with 'Inclusive Growth for Dummies'. Since those opposite seem to be keen to buy his books, I think that would be a particularly useful addition.

Just before question time, we had the most astonishing performance by the member for Corangamite, who wanted to lecture us on this side for having some concerns about a senior member of the media, a woman who had an issue with not getting equal pay. The member for Corangamite was outraged about women across a number of industry sectors and why we weren't talking about them. I don't know where she's been for the last 50 years. One of the very first committees I sat on did an inquiry under a Labor government on pay equity which led to significant reforms in the Industrial Relations Commission that saw pay equity cases successfully prosecuted. Why did we do that? Because we understand that inclusive growth means that women across what were undervalued sectors of the economy deserved wage equity and pay equality.

That was followed up by the Prime Minister, during question time, informing us from his lofty heights that not everyone has had a privileged ride to power. Well, he'd know! He'd know, wouldn't he? I tell you what, Mr Speaker: from the top to the bottom, those opposite epitomise a complete inability to understand what we mean by inclusive growth and what the Australian community expects of growth in this country and the way in which it is shared. We are one of the great examples among OECD countries with a structure in our economy and society that has meant a significant increase in the wellbeing and welfare of working-class people. Over time, that is what has driven growth in this country.

The assistant minister wanted to talk about small business. I have done some local events with small businesses in my area who understand that if you go cutting people's wages you are hurting their customers. You are attacking the base of their community—the people who come in and buy from them, who come in and have a meal at their restaurant or who come in and do a bit of that discretionary spending you can do when you have a decent wage in place. Instead of doing that, what those opposite are doing is cutting away at the heart of the customers who feed those small businesses, by refusing to take action on penalty rates, as an example. I can't believe they're making comments about needing better wages growth in this country whilst not only doing absolutely nothing to deliver that but taking actions to cut away the base of that. As the shadow Treasurer said, this week we've had bills through this place to attack the wage level of people earning only $21,000 a year. These are people who go out and shop in the businesses in my electorate. These are the people who spend the additional money they have. The big end of town don't do that; they put it in a bit more of their own investments or into shares and so forth. If you want inclusive growth, you have to understand how the economies in our local communities operate. They operate on the strength of the incomes that come in to the people who live in those communities and the purchasing power that they deliver to the businesses in our local area. Those opposite, from top to bottom, say people in Western Sydney don't even own cars or drive very far. They say: those of you who can't afford a new house, just beg mum and dad for a bit of money—I'll tell you what: as a mum, I'm not keen on that solution—or that getting paid $4 an hour is a gift. (Time expired)

3:45 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It does beggar belief that the member for McMahon can come into this House with his pious bleating about inclusion and inclusive growth on the very day those opposite try to sabotage full funding for the NDIS. It beggars belief and just epitomises those opposite. They talk a good game on inclusion and inclusive growth but they just can't deliver. They can't fund the NDIS. The NDIS was never funded and they were never able to fund Gonski either. But over on this side, on the government's side, we have plans to fully fund the NDIS and fully fund Gonski, backed by David Gonski himself. As you walk around these corridors, you'll see all the Gonski posters those opposite had up in their rooms have all come down because they know we deliver on all of these inclusive policies.

At the core of inclusive growth is giving Australians a shot at a job. And as Deloitte Access Economics has recently stated, Australian job growth is a thing of beauty. Why wouldn't Deloitte Access Economics say that? Over the past 12 months, 371,500 Aussies got a job, the strongest jobs growth since before the global financial crisis. I think I'd know what the Treasurer would say about that. He would say the better days are arriving. Twelve months of consecutive jobs growth is the best result in over 23 years—that's better days ahead. Annual jobs growth is now running at over three per cent—that's 15 times greater than it was in 2013 when the coalition government was first elected. And since then, 825,000 jobs have been created and almost two-thirds of those jobs have been secured in the past two years. Better days ahead there, better days indeed.

Nowhere have the better days economically been felt more so than in country Australia. If you look at the economic growth figures for regional Australia, you see they are quite astounding. Agriculture is now Australia's fastest growing economic sector and was the largest contributor to national GDP growth in 2016 and 2017. Growth in agriculture, as you would know, Deputy Speaker Coulton, is up 23 per cent, proving the sector is the fastest to grow of all of the 19 industries. The nation's economic growth is at 1.9 per cent, and Australian agriculture contributed 0.5 per cent of that. So it just keeps getting better and better in terms of inclusive growth, because our young farmers can finally see a future on the land. That's giving everyone a share and a part in that great Australian vision.

In more good news: in 2016-17, agriculture contributed over $500 billion in exports, compared to $41 billion just five years ago. So you can see how the better days have indeed arrived. In contrast, those opposite have turned their backs on working Australians, working families. They have turned their backs on miners. I know in our neck of the words, in the Central West, in Lithgow, the miners are very disillusioned about the whacky energy policies of those opposite. The miners out at Mudgee, the miners out at Ulan, they know. You go into the pubs and clubs and they'll tell you how disillusioned they are at being cut loose by those opposite.

Of course, the Productivity Commission spoke about better health and better educational outcomes, which of course we all support. The Treasurer has said that universities need to focus on teaching, to get those practical outcomes going. Out west, we're certainly pushing hard for that Murray Darling Medical School to train doctors in the bush for practice in the bush. So out west, where we are, we're already working on those key recommendations of the Productivity Commission, and I know that that project is something that the communities of the west support wholeheartedly.

But, if you go right across the economy, right across the sectors, you'll see better days and inclusive growth. According to the NAB, business conditions have risen to their highest levels in almost a decade. If you go to manufacturing activity, AiG has stated that it's at its highest level in 15 years. There are better days ahead. And we've also seen that new private business investment has increased in each of the past three quarters in the national accounts, following 12 consecutive quarters of decline. Better days have arrived. Inclusive growth is here. (Time expired)

3:50 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I just acknowledge those young people up in our gallery here, because this debate really is about them. This is about our futures, and those young people over there are the ones who are going to either benefit or otherwise from what's occurring in this place today.

We've been lectured, time and time again, by the government about budget repair. They talk about deficit disaster and they talk about a budget emergency. And yet what was the first thing they did in the last budget? They found the notion of giving a $65 billion tax cut to big business—corporate Australia—which, by the way, last year made record profits, if you can believe the financial analysts out there. So it wasn't that they needed to stimulate big business, because they're actually doing pretty well at the moment. We might need to fine-tune a number of aspects of trade, which we work on, hopefully, on a bipartisan basis.

But, in terms of actually justifying their $65 billion tax cut to big business, they did it on the basis of a belief, believe it or not, in trickle-down economics. Pretty hard to find that—I went through my books and it wasn't mentioned anywhere. But I did find one reference to it earlier this week. There were members on both sides of the House who turned up to hear about the latest issue of the Catholic Social Justice Series Papers, released by Catholic Social Services Australia, entitled 'An economy that works for all'—not dissimilar to the debate we're having at the moment. I was interested: was there anything about trickle-down economics in this publication? And there was, believe it or not! The Catholic bishops' Social Justice Statement this year was entitled 'Everyone's business: developing an inclusive and sustainable economy'. It focused not just on the distribution of wealth but on how it is created and used. I thought, 'That's appropriate for today's debate.' So I thought I'd read on a little bit to see what it said, because it talked about trickle-down economics. It seems these Australian bishops agree with Pope Francis that 'trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world' have not been proven. But this is the government's whole policy! The bishops go on to say that even 26 years of continuous economic growth has been insufficient to assure the poorest Australians of a dignified, if frugal, existence. As to those opposite, I'm sure I saw some familiar faces there—I'm sure they turned up to see the publication of that document and hear Father Frank Brennan introduce it.

They want to talk about economic vandalism. Have you noticed that? It sort of rolls off the tongue over there. This is the mob—and, by the way, this might be interesting for the teachers up there—part of whose strategy for social inclusion is cutting $17 billion from education. That's their view of investing in our future. This is the same mob that comes in here and says, 'We're going to take $3.8 billion out of our universities.' That's hardly investing in our future. And, by the way, when it gets to vocational and TAFE courses, they want to take over $600 million out of them! I introduced these young people up here because they're the ones you're supposed to be investing in. They're our collective future, which you're ignoring.

They do this at a time when there's record low wage growth.

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The good times have arrived!

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I just heard the last member who spoke saying that the good times have arrived: wage growth of 1.9 per cent. Can I just tell that member that this is the lowest wage growth in living memory. And this is the same government that wants to cut the penalty rates for 700,000 Australian workers on low pay, which will take away about $77 a week. And, by the way, the cut won't just apply for this year; their cuts are going to apply for the next four years. These people in the hospitality and the retail sector are on the lowest wages in our country, and they're not going to get a pay rise for the next four years. And those opposite say that the good times have arrived! Well, I'd hate to see what the bad times are like!

And bear in mind that none of them have ever mentioned the global financial crisis. This is the side that actually protected the Australian people and the Australian economy in the face of the worst financial disaster— (Time expired)

3:56 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I start my address on this matter of public importance by making a confession, a confession that I'm not proud of, but it's important to put it on the record. I was one of those people who paid full price for a copy of the shadow minister's Hearts & Minds book.

A government member: Surely not!

I did! There aren't many Australians who can claim that, because it was such a low print run and it has, as the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer conceded, gone straight to the reject bin. But I have done so, and I have then had the dubious honour of reading said Hearts & Minds. The principle that sits at the heart of it is actually that you create economic opportunity by creating economic growth. A shocking proposition, I know! A shocking proposition! Something that's come from the shadow Treasurer's mouth and in words as well as in deed.

But, in practice, everybody on this side of the House knows that's a statement of the expletive obvious. And that's what's at the heart of this motion: an absurdity—the idea that you can get up and pander and postulate to the parliament about how you think you can create a better society by simply sharing the dividends rather than creating the opportunity that this nation needs. The Assistant Minister to the Treasurer was 100 per cent right: those opposite take economic opportunity and growth as a given, rather than recognising it as a cause we must strive for continuously if we want to create the prosperity and opportunity for the children in the gallery that so many on the other side simply seek to gesture to.

The absurdity of their position is how much hypocrisy sits at the heart of the arguments put by those opposite. They talk about the challenges of wage growth—and there are challenges to wage growth; I'm not going to pretend otherwise. But hypocrisy sits at the heart of it when, for the past 12 months, the member for Fraser has done a job and never got paid for it because of factional union deals over the past 12 months. Only because of a recent reshuffle has he been honoured with the commitment to a boost in his income that he was entitled to in fulfilling his role as a shadow minister. These people like to talk it, but they don't like to deliver it—especially when it's one of their own.

Inclusive growth is about creating economic opportunity for every Australian. It's about creating an opportunity society, and at the heart of it is actually understanding some pretty basic propositions of economics. Firstly, you have primary industries, which create the economic opportunity and the wealth that make this nation rich. Secondly, you use that wealth to create a manufacturing sector to value-add and to create opportunities for the next generation, which is ultimately provided for by a service based economy—the sector in which millions of Australians work. But, if you do not create the right economic environment for those primary industries, the country is cactus. And that is what they are doing every single day when they seek to regulate and legislate them out of competitiveness.

Their policy on energy fundamentally undermines the opportunity for our mining industries, our agriculture and our manufacturing services economy to compete, and it slugs households and businesses at every step of the way. That's the point of the National Energy Guarantee. It provides a framework for making sure we get investment in new technology and new energy to make us competitive, so that we can reduce our costs and improve the opportunity for households to reduce their electricity bills.

On top of that, you have to judge what they want to do to our economy against the outcomes of the Turnbull coalition government. Let's face facts: in the year 2016-17 we have had but a measly, a dolorous, if you take the position of the opposition, 371,000 new jobs. Apparently creating job opportunities is not inclusive growth. We have been delivering job opportunities for 371,000 Australians, completely against the rubbish narrative that is being run in this motion today. And 315,900 of those jobs are full time, creating opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Australians to be able to stand on their own two feet, to understand the dignity and opportunity that comes with being able to work and to provide for their families and pay their mortgages. There are so many things this government has done to deliver inclusion and opportunity for Australians. It's about time the opposition woke up and recognised it.

4:01 pm

Photo of Cathy O'TooleCathy O'Toole (Herbert, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Unlike the member for Goldstein, I'm going to talk about 'inclusive economy' as opposed to 'exclusive economy'. Yesterday we saw the Productivity Commission release their five-year productivity report into Australia's productivity and economic growth. Let's just say this review is more like a report card on the five years that we have had under the Abbott-Turnbull governments. What is clear from this report card is that the Abbott-Turnbull governments have received Fs across the board: wage growth, fail; support for universities, fail; support for education, fail; investment in health, fail.

The Abbott-Turnbull governments have failed Australia because they have failed to understand a vital notion, a notion that was outlined on page 30 of the Productivity Commission's review:

A key issue will be to ensure that future economic, social and environmental policies sustain inclusive growth—

a phrase the Turnbull government probably aren't too familiar with, and we've just heard that, considering it includes the term 'inclusive'. So allow me to educate those opposite in the Turnbull government on what 'inclusive' really means. 'Inclusive' does not just relate to the wealthy and the elite. 'Inclusive' does not relate to billionaires and millionaires. And 'inclusivity' is certainly not about providing a $65 billion tax cut to big business. 'Inclusive' means all, everyone, every citizen, all Australians—workers, pensioners, students, teachers, nurses, tradies, electricians, small business owners.

Labor has always understood that investment in people and our human capital is key to economic growth. You cannot have a strong economy without a thriving and inclusive society. That is why it has only ever been Labor that has invested in education, universities, health care and jobs. That is the backbone of who we are. But the Turnbull government does not care about all Australians, and this is very evident with its Medicare levy. This government wants to reduce the taxes for big business by $44 billion over the next decade, with the Medicare levy rise hitting workers who earn as little as $21,000 a year. Quite simply, the Turnbull government is giving away $65 billion in tax cuts to big business but slugging working Australians with a $44 billion income tax hike. This government's tax increase will mean a worker on $55,000 will pay an extra $275 tax a year. It is clear that the Turnbull government is not at all interested in inclusive growth when it is implementing government policies and tax increases that detrimentally affect this vulnerable group of people. The Turnbull government is completely blinded by trickle-down economics. Well, there is something trickling down on Australian workers, but it certainly isn't wealth!

This government needs to stop treating workers like they are fools. Workers know the facts, but allow me to enlighten the government about these facts. Wage growth hasn't been this low since the retention of records started. Since 1975, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has collected data on earnings inequality. Profits have gone up by 40 per cent, wages by less than two per cent. Real wages have grown by 72 per cent for the top 10 per cent.

In 1975, the top ten per cent of earners earned twice as much as the bottom 10 per cent, yet by 2014 they earned nearly three times as much. If low-wage earners had enjoyed the same percentage gains as the highest paid, they would be $16,000 a year better off. The richest one per cent of Australians collectively own more wealth than 70 per cent of Australian citizens combined. So what will the Turnbull government do regarding this massive issue of wage growth? When will wages go up? When asked during a national radio interview last week, the Prime Minister said, 'When businesses are able to, when the economy is growing fast enough and strongly enough so that businesses are able to afford to pay more for labour.' That rambling answer is simply not good enough. And the government's $65 billion tax cut is not good enough either. This farce of a tax cut will only provide one per cent of growth in 20 years' time. That policy is a joke to all Australians.

The Turnbull government is a government that puts profits before people. It is not a government for low-income workers. It is certainly not a government that cares about inclusivity for all Australian citizens, because, under the Turnbull government, workers not only will be taxed more but will certainly be paid less.

4:06 pm

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The economy is strong and it is getting stronger and stronger every day, with some tremendously good economic figures in recent months. Over the past 12 months, 371,500 Australians got a job, the greatest incremental number of jobs since before the financial crisis, a fantastic rate of growth. And the overwhelming majority of those jobs were full-time. There have been 825,000 jobs created since we came into government, two-thirds of those in the last two years, so it is a very strong economic performance.

We contrast that with the bleak and depressing economic vision of those opposite. The opposition leader said in a speech recently that the wealth of your parents is becoming the defining feature and source of your future and that there is a sense that your success in life is predetermined by your parents' income. That is not right, because, in Australia, we know that it is our own efforts that determine our level of success. We know that this is a country where people can come from any walk of life, from any background, and, through dedication and application, can make so much of themselves. That is so fundamental as to who we are on this side of the House and, indeed, who we are as Australians. But those opposite believe in a sad and depressing vision that your success or destiny in life is predetermined by your upbringing, and that is absolutely false. I'm sure there are many people in this House who know from personal experience that that could not be further from the truth, but this is an opposition that is anti-business, anti-aspiration and, frankly, anti-success.

What do those opposite want to do to small- and medium-sized businesses? They want to say you can't have any tax relief, because a business with $2 million of revenue or more is some sort of evil multinational that must be denied tax relief, even though most of these businesses are very small and are massive employers of millions of Australians. This could be instructive for those opposite. If you've got $2.1 million of revenue, it doesn't mean that you have made $2.1 million. It doesn't mean that your profit is $2.1 million. It means that you have revenue of $2.1 million and you might have a profit margin of five per cent. Many small businesses have profit margins of three or four or five per cent. So if your profit margin is five per cent and your revenue is just over $2 million, you're making $100,000. You are making about the same as the average family income, and those opposite say this is some sort of huge corporation that must be denied tax relief. That is an extraordinary and absurd proposition, and it just shows a complete lack of understanding from those opposite of how the economy works.

The other thing those opposite want to do is increase the investment tax on everything by 50 per cent. They want to increase capital gains tax on everything by 50 per cent. This is under their so-called housing affordability policy, but Labor's housing affordability policy says that on any investment in anything at all, if there's a capital gain, that person should pay 50 per cent more tax. So, if you invest in a factory in the electorate of Petrie or in a cafe or whatever, there would be 50 per cent more tax. If you invest in a farm, there would be 50 per cent more tax when you sell that asset. That is, again, a ridiculous policy which will be anti-investment. That policy supposedly was designed to address housing affordability issues in Sydney and Melbourne, so why would you apply it to all of these other industries and to the entire country? One reason is that you want to raise more revenue, because you want to spend more and you have absolutely no understanding of how the economy works. It is an extraordinarily bad idea.

We have very strong business conditions at the moment and very strong business confidence, and that's because this Treasurer and this government are unashamedly pro-investment and pro-growth. We have already legislated, with the support of some sensible crossbenchers in the Senate—not those opposite but some sensible crossbenchers in the Senate—for tax relief for businesses with revenue of up to $50 million. That should be extended further, because it will mean more jobs. The proof of the pudding is the very strong performance on jobs that this government has generated in recent years. We have a very strong economic record here. The economy is getting stronger every day. There is a depressing antibusiness, anti-aspiration agenda opposite which must be rejected.

4:11 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this MPI today. In the Federation Chamber earlier today, I heard some of the comments from the member for Boothby about the closing down of the Holden plant in Adelaide. She really did not have a sense for what that meant to so many families and workers. Then we heard the member for Goldstein's Freudian slip when he talked about the other side's passion for 'exclusive growth'; he belled the cat there about where the focus of those opposite lies. Then we had the member for Calare talking about how things have never been better. I hope that, when he got back up to his office, his staff removed his cranium from his rear end so that he could appreciate and maybe listen to some other contributions, because it may come as a surprise to those opposite, who generally do better from electorates that do better—well done and good for you, guys, and that's fantastic—but a lot of people in this country are struggling and don't feel included in this growth thing.

Let's have a think about that growth. There are $65 billion worth of corporate tax cuts going to the big end of town. For what sort of growth? By their own admission, for one per cent growth in 20 years. Those in the gallery should know a lot of that money gained through those corporate tax cuts will go offshore—that is, not for Australians but for those incredibly wealthy people and companies offshore. How is that inclusive? I don't think it is. So what people are starting to wake up to—with Mr Point Piper with his mansion, our current Prime Minister and all his wealth, and good luck to him—is that people in this country are struggling, and they don't appreciate that those opposite's idea of inclusivity is to increase taxes on every single Australian earning more than $21,000. That's shocking. It's not a surprise. Those opposite don't understand inclusivity.

I was very happy to hear the member for Fowler on our side point to the findings of Catholic Social Services in their look into the state of inequality and inclusiveness in our country. They also mention the fact that the current Pope, Francis, isn't necessarily an adherent to trickle-down, and that's interesting, because a lot of those opposite like to profess a profound communion with the ideals of Christianity. However, taking from poor people and giving to those with abundance is not really in the nature of the teachings of that religion. Forgive them, Deputy Speaker Coulton, because they do not know what they are talking about. They do not understand what inclusivity is.

In fact, the member for Goldstein belled the cat, talking about an exclusive policy of growth excluding those on the margins. I come from the Northern Territory, where people are living on those margins. I understand what communities of disadvantage look like. I understand what it's like to represent people coming from a jurisdiction that depends on something like horizontal fiscal equalisation, which is about us sharing the GST, the glue that holds the federation together. Yet this Treasurer of Australia seeks to change the model by which some areas of our country that are doing less well get to share in the common wealth of our nation. He is saying the Productivity Commission is going around the country doing consultations about this change to the glue of our federation. Do you think they're coming to the Northern Territory? No. They're not coming to the Northern Territory, the very jurisdiction with the most disadvantage in our country, for Territorians to be heard. Territorians' voices should be heard on this issue. Labor will always be for an inclusive economy.

4:16 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've seen over the last 12 months some really positive results in the Australian economy. We've seen job creation soar, with over 370,000 new jobs in the last 12 months, and over 300,000 of those being full-time. We've seen the unemployment rate fall, not just nationally but also in my electorate. In the last four years since the coalition came in, we've seen the youth unemployment rate come down considerably in Petrie on the back of projects like PaTH. We've also seen rent fall in some areas, particularly in Brisbane a little bit, which has helped some people. Housing prices have remained stagnant or gone up a little bit. They have remained very stable. Goals are being achieved by local people and local community groups, so I thank the RDA and others in the community that are working hard.

The shadow Treasurer came in here and talked about inclusive growth, but the problem is that his policies and the policies of those opposite are actually making the gap larger. I look at their policies around higher taxes and their policy around making existing homes only available to be positively geared, because they want to get rid of negatively geared housing. When you only allow positive gearing, for the people who rent and who can only ever afford to rent, it means that their rents will go up. Naturally, if they cannot negatively gear, owners need to make sure that rents are higher than interest repayments. Some people out there may remember when interest rates were 17 per cent under Labor. Right now, they are quite low and there'll be very few investors that are negatively gearing compared to when interest rates were high. When interest rates are very high and when they go up in the future and you cannot negatively gear, it means rents will increase.

Labor also want to push up the cost of the electricity bill. We know the Climate Change Authority says their policy will increase prices by $200 and ours will decrease prices by over $100. That is a $300 difference between Liberal-National policy and Labor policy.

They want to punish family-owned business trusts that employ local people. They basically believe we have to tax them more because they must be ripping people off. But when you tax investment there are fewer jobs. We know, since we went to the last election with jobs and growth, that the coalition has a proven record of delivering.

They also want to tax people half of what they earn. If you've got any incentive to earn $300,000, they want to take half of it. We know that people who are earning $37,000 a year pay $3,572 tax. If you earn $52,000 you pay $8,400. If you earn $79,000—around the average in Australia; I think the average is $81,000—you pay $17,222. If you earn $300,000, if you are really earning more than the average, you pay $108,232 in tax. Lisa Wilkinson, who just left Channel Nine and now works for Channel Ten and has landed a contract for $2.3 million, will pay $1,008,232 in tax. So Labor's solution to growing inequality is that a woman who has just landed a $2.3 million contract, who currently pays over $1 million in tax, must pay more. That is why we are in this situation—according to Labor. What they should be focusing on is not the top earners or the middle-income earners but encouraging everyone to do better. They should not be voting against policies like the Super Saver Scheme. Members opposite voted against the $6,000 tax cut that we introduced into parliament last week to help first home owners save more of their own money for a deposit on their own house.

Labor's policies are all wrong. The inclusive growth that they're talking about is actually exacerbated under Labor—the rich and poor are getting wider apart. If you tax Lisa Wilkinson an extra two per cent, she's still going to be earning a lot of money. Focus on the bottom end. Look at those earning $0 to $18,200, who currently pay no tax—and each year maybe link that to CPI so that their $18,200 goes up. It will help everyone on the tax scale, including those at the lower end. You'll see a bigger gap between the minimum wage—what they take home—and what they currently get in welfare. This party believes in lower taxes and lower spending, and that's the only way to equality for all.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.