Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 2) Bill 2015; Second Reading
Another year and yet another 12 months that Labor still has not learnt from their mistakes. I am pleased today to rise to speak to the Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 2) Bill 2015. As those who frequent this chamber have heard me say before, 'Good economic management is a part of this side of the chamber's DNA. Poor financial management is in Labor's DNA.' We, on this side of the chamber—the Turnbull-Truss coalition government—understand economics and we understand business. This government will have reduced Labor's budget deficit from $48 billion in 2013-14 to just $7 billion in five years. Yes, those opposite sometimes have a knack for producing the glossy posters and, perhaps, the catchy slogans, but it is this government who understands that it is business not governments who create jobs. It is government's role to support business and when you support business you support jobs. It is the excellent management of this government which has presided over a drop in the unemployment rate from 6.2 per cent to 5.9 per cent in the month of October. This year alone, 231,702 more Australians are in jobs. It is worth repeating: 231,702 more Australians are in jobs, and unemployment has dropped to 5.9 per cent. These are key indicators that this government is a superior financial manager.
Last week, the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, acknowledged that there were several positive signs of how our economy was performing through the transition to a more diversified economy. Business investment is growing as the Australian economy transitions from the investment phase of the mining boom to a more diversified economy. Mr Stevens said our economy was performing positively through this transition period.
Including defence and public corporations, this government has increased Commonwealth investment to 6.3 per cent of total investment, which is 1.2 per cent higher than under the previous, wasteful regime. When we look more broadly at public investment, there are currently 88 major infrastructure projects under construction in Australia, with a further 95 projects in the pre-construction phase. The Turnbull government is providing $50 billion in infrastructure funding between 2014-15 and 2019-20. This incredibly mammoth drive in investment will not only deliver much-needed amenities and services across Australia but drive growth in this great country of ours, not forgetting the jobs that it will create along the way.
This is real action compared to the Leader of the Opposition's glib infrastructure ideas announcement that we heard in October. Not a single one of Labor's proposed nine projects were in Western Australia. I am disappointed that, despite the member for Perth's nearly 20 years of experience in state and federal parliament, she defended these nine infrastructure projects, given none of them were in Western Australia and, of course, none of them were in my electorate of Durack. I would say that is pretty embarrassing for the member for Perth.
The government's two-year report Sticking to our plan: backing hard-working Australians highlighted many key economic facts about our government. For example, jobs growth in Australia has been stronger than in every other G7 nation over the past year; there have been over 335,000 additional jobs created since we were elected in September 2013; and—something I am particularly pleased about—female workforce participation is at record levels, with over 171,000 more women in jobs since we came to office. And this is just a small snapshot of the government's record.
Hardworking families from right around the vast electorate of Durack—from as far north as the Kimberley to as far west as the Gascoyne, to the deep south of Durack and the great wheat-belt towns like Cunderdin, Tammin, Kellerberrin and Merredin—thank me for the rise in consumer confidence over the last few months. Consumer confidence has risen nine per cent since mid-September. Consumer confidence leads to increased spending, which builds confidence in the business community. This leads to more part-time and casual jobs for people of all descriptions, from senior citizens to students and mothers in my regional, rural and remote towns.
The Turnbull government are working towards getting the budget back into surplus by controlling expenditure and growing Australia's economic pie. That is what good financial managers do. If we had remained on Labor's spending path, the budget would be almost $80 billion worse off over this budget year and the forward estimates.
The Labor Party claim to the party for the working class. However, if this were true, then 98 per cent of voters would vote for them—but of course they do not, because they know that we on this side of the chamber, the government, are truly the team for the working class. We save Australians money. We pay back debt, which reduces taxes for all Australians in the long term.
When those opposite were in office, they funded everything and anything. Who can forget the pink batts installation disaster? Everyone and everything who came a-knocking got a cheque. Irrespective of purpose or priority, the previous, Labor government were the best friends of groups like vigilante protesters and extremist green groups. Small minority groups who stood for little other than self-interest loved the previous, Labor government—and why wouldn't they—while hardworking Australians had to shoulder the burden left by a populist and irresponsible government. While in office, the Labor Party irresponsibly set us on a trajectory towards $667 billion in the red. Their legacy was also $123 billion in cumulative deficits.
Since coming to office, this government has reduced real growth in government expenditure, from 3.6 per cent on average per annum when those opposite were in office, down to 1.5 per cent on average annually over the 2015-16 forward estimates. We have made massive savings for hardworking Australians, to the tune of $9.4 billion in expenditure from the 2015-16 budget. As a result of this government's budget measures, the budget bottom line is around $110 billion better off over the relevant forward estimates period, with many of these improvements structural and improving over time. This is good news for the hardworking people of Durack.
This bill is a necessary reform for higher education students, who are embarking on arguably the greatest investment of all. Part of this bill includes an efficiency dividend for Commonwealth contributions to higher education grants under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. I believe these reforms are fair. They are also essential in making significant budget savings. While those opposite echo their scare campaign of $100,000 degrees and other aspects of higher education reform—and we have heard it here today—it is worth noting that the Higher Education Loan Program only comes into effect when the former student earns a certain income.
This bill will also allow interest to be charged on certain debts incurred by students on youth allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY living allowance and fares allowance. It is completely unacceptable and, more importantly, unfair that those who have a debt to Centrelink avoid repaying the debt, and that is also covered in the bill we are debating. These measures, where applicable, encourage those with a debt to repay it if they have the financial capacity to do so. This means those who have a debt have an incentive to make a repayment to avoid an interest charge in the future.
In conclusion, I encourage those opposite to support these budget savings. For my grandchildren's and for their grandchildren's sake, we must continue to find ways to save money in the budget. I commend this bill to the House.