Thursday, 21 October 2010
Matters of Public Importance
This MPI is also about commitments. Well, when the global recession hit, when the greatest economic crisis in 75 years hit, we made a commitment. We made a commitment to keep Australia working. That is why we stimulated the economy, and we did it at a time when the other side opposed us. The action that we took protected the jobs of 200,000 Australians and kept this economy out of recession. The eminent economics professor, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, said this about the stimulus package:
I did actually study quite a bit the Australian package, and my impression was that it was the best—one of the best-designed of all the advanced industrial countries.
As a result, unemployment in Australia today—for which we all should be thankful—is 5.1 per cent. In America, unemployment is 9.6 per cent. In Europe, it is 10.1 per cent. Go back three years to when this government was first elected, in November 2007. Unemployment in Australia and unemployment in the United States were both under five per cent. Now, unemployment here is 5.1 per cent and unemployment in the United States is double, proof of the action that the government have taken and the commitment that we made to keep Australia working.
The Leader of the Opposition in this debate had something to say about the mining resource rent tax. The facts on this are pretty clear. We have said all along that we will credit existing and scheduled increases in royalties. We said that the Policy Transition Group will discuss with relevant companies how this might best occur, ensuring long-term certainty for industry. We are not going to write blank cheques; that is the responsible thing to do. We should not sign taxpayers up for things that state governments decide to do, but let us not forget what the MRRT will go towards: tax cuts for 700,000 Australian businesses, $6 billion that will be invested in infrastructure for regional communities and an increase in superannuation for every working Australian.
What does this mean? It means that, if you have constituents in your electorates—and I am sure you do—who are 30 years old and on an average wage, they are going to have an extra $108,000 in their superannuation when they retire. I ask some of the new members here to consider this as you are asked to vote on legislation about increasing the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent, because, for a 30-year-old on an average wage, it is going to mean more money in their pocket when they retire and will make an easier, more secure retirement for them—an extra $108,000 in their pocket when they retire.
The word is that the Liberal Party are planning to vote against this. That would be very, very disappointing. It would be a repeat of what happened in the past, 20 years ago, when we did this. The Liberal Party voted against it then. They said that it was ‘little short of lunacy’. They said it would kill small business and destroy jobs. What happened? Superannuation proved to be one of the most important economic reforms of the last century. It spawned a whole new industry that now employs 60,000 people and manages a trillion dollars in managed funds. It also helped to get us through the global recession. When Australian industry could not get access to funds overseas, it was our superannuation that saved them, allowing them to raise $90 billion. The point is this: the Liberal Party was wrong two decades ago; do not let the Liberal Party be wrong on this again. This is an important reform to the Australian economy and it will be important to the people that you represent.
This is a debate that has been framed by the Leader of the Opposition as being about commitments and about trust. Well, if you want to have a debate about trust and commitments today, tomorrow or for the next few years, we are very happy to have that debate, because from all accounts the opposition cannot seem to keep a commitment from one day to the next, even if the Leader of the Opposition writes it down. The Leader of the Opposition made a written commitment at a radio station to scrap Work Choices. He said it was ‘dead, buried and cremated’, but now it seems like the zombie policy that you just cannot kill.