Thursday, 1 August 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I think the Leader of the Opposition's speech makes it abundantly clear that he is in absolute denial about what happened at the election. We've seen it time and time again. I was reflecting in question time today, 'Imagine being a backbencher in the Labor Party.' You wouldn't want to too forcefully argue against any given policy, because the Leader of the Opposition and the leadership of the Labor Party might turn around and tell you to vote for a bill that they've been arguing against. We've seen it time and time again. When we were re-elected, we had spoken every day during the campaign about tax relief for hardworking Australians, about ensuring that there was structural reform of our tax system to reward hardworking Australians and to make sure they earn more and keep more of what they earn.
What did we see from the Labor Party? The Labor Party could not accept the verdict of the Australian people, and put every obstacle in the way of delivering tax relief for everyday Australians. We saw the pantomime from the Labor Party for weeks on end in the lead-up to the legislation. They were arguing against it. The Leader of the Opposition humiliated himself by moving an amendment to change the title of the bill. In the end, what happened? They voted for it, presumably due to political expediency, not because they believed in it. Not because they believe that the Australian people made the right decision at the election. Not because they've accepted the decision of the Australian people at the election. No, I'll tell the people in the gallery: the Labor Party think Australians got it wrong. The Labor Party think Australians got it wrong. They are in denial. That is highlighted in no better way than the Leader of the Opposition's contribution just now.
That continued. The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019 was a solemn commitment we made during the election to keep Australians safe, telling Australians that we wouldn't let murderous individuals who had travelled to the Middle East to rape and kill and maim come back to Australia. What did we get from the Labor Party? Obstacles the whole way through. Obstacles and diversionary tactics. In the end we welcomed their support, but it was very, very begrudging support. Again, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party are in denial about what the Australian people said at the election. They sent a very clear message at the election: 'Yes, we want lower taxes. Yes, we want a safer country.' The first order of business from the government was to deliver both of those things, and what did we see from the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party? We saw them in denial and not willing to accept the message sent by the Australian people.
The Leader of the Opposition also can't outline any policy. We presume that every single policy the Labor Party took to the election is still policy, but we don't see the Leader of the Opposition defending it. We don't see the Leader of the Opposition defending their $387 billion of higher taxes, their retirees' tax or their housing tax, which I spoke about in question time today, which would see a $1½ billion reduction in GDP. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about superannuation in his contribution, yet, presumably, it's still Labor Party policy to impose $34 billion of additional taxes on Australians in superannuation.
We've got the retirees' tax, which is still Labor policy. We've got housing taxes, which are still Labor policy. We've got superannuation taxes, which are still Labor policy. What on earth is different? Why did you change your leader? What on earth is different? I must say, I've been sitting in parliament this week, and the member for Maribyrnong has been looking decidedly happier in the last couple of days than he was last week, and I can understand why. He must be sitting there wondering: 'Why on earth is this man the Leader of the Opposition? He has not changed one thing.' Again, highlighting to the Australian people that the Labor Party, in their bones, think that the Australian people got it wrong. They don't believe that the Australian people made the right decision. There's no self-reflection going on in the Labor Party about why the Australian people rejected their higher taxes and their weaker borders. I hope that happens at some point in time, but we can't obsess or focus too much on the Labor Party, because it's very hard to know who's in charge or what's going on at the moment.
What are we doing? We're focusing on, again, what we said to the Australian people. One of the important things we spoke about from budget night, which was essentially the kick-off of the campaign, was that the Australian budget is back in the black. We will have an update to last year's budget, and I expect that it will be in an improved position because, unlike the Labor Party, we underpromised and overdelivered—better not get that one the wrong way around! That's important in budgets, because for years the Australian people, particularly when Wayne Swan was Treasurer, saw governments making grandiose promises about budget surpluses or reduced budget deficits that would come in wildly out and were always worse. From Treasurer Morrison to Treasurer Frydenberg what we have seen consistently is a budget that outperforms forecasts. That is what will be the case when the final budget numbers for last year's budget are brought forward.
Importantly, in the 2019-20 year we are committed to delivering an additional budget surplus, the first in 10 years. They're not easy, particularly when the needs and demands of government are increasing. How do you do it? You have to show discipline. You must have the ability to live within your means, because a government is no different to a household or a small business. We have ensured that real growth in spending is down to 1.9 per cent, which is the lowest in 50 years and vastly lower than the 3.5 per cent we inherited when we came into government. It ensured that in the 2017-18 year we had a final budget deficit of 10 billion—$19 billion better than was expected, to highlight the point about overdelivery.
We've been able to return to surplus through not only disciplined budget management but also, as I said at the beginning of this contribution, delivering significant tax relief for Australians. That is the issue that was discussed every single day of the election. It's extraordinary that we saw the pantomime from the Labor Party, throwing up obstacles, arguing every single day about why our policies were so terrible, then they ultimately supported it. The question is: did the Labor Party ultimately support those tax cuts because they had a 'road to Damascus' conversion overnight and believed that the Australian people got it right or is it just political expediency that they don't believe in? I think it's clear to Australians that it's the latter. I'd say to the Labor Party—