Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day 2015) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I am most pleased to rise tonight to speak on the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day 2015) Bill 2015. Back in 2013, when the coalition was going to the election, we said that there was far too much red tape and government regulation holding back business. We made a commitment that we would bring in steps and measures that would reduce the red-tape costs to business by $1 billion and would help our nation's competitiveness. We have achieved that and more. We have now been able to announce total savings from the reduction of unnecessary government regulation of $2.45 billion in just two years. This is an important contribution to our economy. Nowhere in those measures do we see businesses, the entrepreneurs of this country, being held back by government red tape and regulation.
The specific provisions for repeal in this bill relate to superannuation. I thought this was a good opportunity to raise a few issues about our superannuation industry and the superannuation structure going forward. The point that needs to be made is that superannuation is money which is earned by an individual and which belongs to an individual. Too many times do we see those on the other side of the House thinking that superannuation is some slush fund to be created for a union delegate or a union member so that they can get onto a board to regulate the fund. Too many times do we see those on that side of the House thinking that it should be regulated where an individual can choose to put their superannuation money.
My first concern is that by forcing an individual to put a proportion of their savings into a superannuation fund has two detrimental effects. The first detrimental effect is where an individual wants to start up their own small business. This is an individual who wants to work to earn a bit of capital, to get a bit of equity and then to use that to invest in order to build themselves up, to have a go, to think that they could be an entrepreneur and try their luck rather than just being a unionised employee. If we force an average Australian to take 10 per cent or up to 15 per cent—if they are in the Public Service—of their money and, instead of them being able to put that money in a little pot to start up their own small business, we force them to put it into some fund that they cannot touch and that is loaned out to other groups, it will have a detrimental effect on the entrepreneurial spirit, the entrepreneurial drive, and the availability of capital for small businesses in the entrepreneurial sector.
My second concern is that superannuation savings affect the ability of younger people to enter the housing market. When I was younger we did not have this superannuation set-up. When I first started work I was able to put what was the equivalent of 10 per cent of my income into a special account to save up for a deposit on a house. It is something that most of the people of my generation were able to do successfully. The savings that we had were simply for a deposit for our house, which then enabled us to get our foot in the door of the real estate market. It helped us to pay off our house and it gave us enormous equity as we went ahead. By forcing the young people of today to put 10 per cent or 9.5 per cent—if they are in the private sector—of their salary into a superannuation fund, which they cannot touch, and then expecting them to try and save money on top of that to create a deposit for a house, we are making it harder and harder for young people to enter the housing market. If we do that, we risk changing the nature of our society. The greatest Liberal of all time, Sir Robert Menzies, noted this in his famous speech when he talked about the importance of home ownership—where you are able to say that a part of this world is your own, that this is your own piece of Australia. The effect that has on our society can never be underestimated. But we are saying to today's young generation: 'Sorry. You've got to put the money that the previous generation was able to use to save for a deposit into some superannuation fund that you cannot touch until you are in your sixties or of retirement age.' This simply denies many young Australians the ability to get into the market.
One of the things that we know about unnecessary regulation—and we see many examples of this—is where the government rushes in, thinking it is going to fix a problem by putting out a regulation that only causes more problems. A classic example that occurred recently was the shortage of baby milk formula. I know there is nothing more distressing than hungry babies, and their mothers who are unable to buy formula. It is not a situation that we like to see. Of course, it causes great distress if a mother goes to buy baby milk formula, powdered milk formula, in a supermarket and cannot find it, and they go to another supermarket and still cannot find it. Yes, that causes great distress. It would have been easy for the government to jump in and say, 'We can fix this problem with regulation', but doing so would have only caused more problems. The only way to fix this problem is to get entrepreneurs to produce more. We can produce more baby milk formula. We heard the story today about a new baby milk formula plant that is under construction in the member for Macarthur's electorate. It will be opening very soon.
Anything we do to discourage the increase in new production facilities coming online is detrimental. This is so even when putting up a sign in a shop that enforces some regulation—for example, when you say that the purchase of a product is 'limited to two' or 'limited to four'. It does not stop the person who wants to buy 10 or 20, because they just make multiple trips to the supermarket or send a couple of people in to do multiple trips. So you are not actually stopping the person who is buying 20 or more cans. What you are doing when you say that a product is 'limited to two' or 'limited to four' is sending the message to the average punter that there must be some shortage, and so where they would normally buy one, they might buy two or more. You are doubling the demand artificially. You are bringing forward the demand. You are creating a bubble in the demand for the product, which makes the problem worse. We had some restrictions on the export of baby milk formula through some government regulation, which again risked making the problem worse. We want entrepreneurs to be confident that, if they can set up production, they can sell as much to whoever wants to buy it.
The other area where we are see bad laws in this country is where there is poor or faulty information and we make a regulation. We rush to make laws simply because we mistook the problem. A classic example of that was revealed today in question time, when the foreign minister said:
I really do question the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeking to make something of what is a public announcement …
… … …
I think it is important not to engage in hyperbole when one is talking about climate change. I remember in 2011 when the deputy leader tried to scare the senior citizens on the Central Coast by saying that they were going to be subject to the ravages of climate change. Well, this is rather interesting. On 4 November, in relation to climate change, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on ABC radio that she had visited the Pacific islands:
… to see, well, where an island used to be, the island of Eneko—an island that had a home on it, a garden, spread fruit trees, palm trees, it's just literally disappeared into the sea.
She said, 'literally disappeared into the sea'. That was news to me. That was certainly news to the post. That was certainly news to the residents of Eneko. Colleagues might be interested to see the island of Eneko.
I went back and thought I would see what is actually on this island of Eneko. Today, there is a place on the island called Eneko Island Getaway, and I will quote from their brochure—and this is an island that is supposed to have disappeared into the sea.
Mr Husic interjecting—
Our paradise island is perfect for beach goers, picnickers, divers, honeymooners, or holidaymakers that want to get off the main island.
… … …
The addition of the bungalows make it a popular short stay location for those wanting to get away from the downtown area.
… … …
There is however a choice of outdoor and indoor areas to both cook and eat whatever you take with you or catch from the sea.
Eneko Island … is around 10 km or 40 minutes by boat from downtown Majuro.
It goes on to say that the island is well equipped:
… and the picnic area can become quite busy! We have traditional style, well-equipped bungalows that are spacious and full of all the necessary amenities.
That does not sound like something that has collapsed under the sea. I will take the interjection from the member for Chifley. The shadow foreign minister did correct it. She said that, no, she was talking about another island. There was some other island that has disappeared under the sea recently.
What is the sea level rise that has happened in the Marshall Islands? I thought I would look at the science. I went to no less an authority than the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. I went to the website where they have the tide gauges for the maximum, the mean and the minimum for the Marshall Islands going back to 1992. I looked at the chart and I scratched my head because it did not show any sea level rise whatsoever. In fact, it showed that the sea level in the Marshall Islands today is lower than it was 20 years ago. This is the data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. So if the sea level has actually fallen since 1994, I am very keen to see this island that has disappeared under the sea.
The foreign minister got up in one of the most farcical scenes I have ever seen in parliament and, if I am correct, held up a picture of the ocean and said, 'Look! It's disappeared! It's disappeared!' as proof that it had actually disappeared. You could prove the lost city of Atlantis had never existed by holding up a picture of somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and saying, 'Look, it used to be here.' But it is mistakes such as these by people who do not do their homework, who do not do their research, that lead to bad policy making and wasted government resources.
With the debt and the deficit that we have inherited as a result of the fickle and reckless expenditure and reckless policy of the Labor government, we are in a position in this country where we cannot afford these policy bungles and policy errors that Labor would make because they do not do their homework and they do not do their research. It is important that we repeal and continue to wind back unnecessary red tape and unnecessary regulation that is tying the hands of our entrepreneurs and is stopping them from getting out there and creating jobs. We also have to look at the evidence, look at the facts and look at the science when we are making policy so that we do not go off on a wild-goose chase, like the one we have seen from the shadow foreign minister, making outlandish statements and hyperbole and mistaking facts. That is how we would waste the taxpayers' money—and, as I said, we cannot afford to do that. With that, I commend the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day 2015) Bill 2015 to the House.