Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Second Reading
I thank the member for Fraser for his comments; I think they are entirely relevant and interesting. I think the member for Fraser is referring to what Dr Lawrence Summers refers to as secular stagnation, which seems to have occurred since the global financial crisis of 2008. He talked about some of the structural changes that may have led to this. But I find it interesting that no-one on the Left ever talks about the fact that we have massively regulated our financial institutions—both deposit and lending—that credit creation is a major part of economic growth and that maybe this overregulation has in fact led to the stagnation that we are currently facing.
The Left also—or the Labor Party in this case—constantly refer to Philip Lowe's comments. The governor of the Reserve Bank could not have been clearer about this. He said there are two ways for us to deal with getting economic growth up. The first is through microeconomic reform lifting productivity. The second is through infrastructure spending. Of course, no-one on the left ever talks about structural reform; the first thing they always head to is spending more money. I ask them: where would you like the New South Wales government to spend more money? Where would you like the Victorian government to spend more money? Where exactly would you like the federal government to spend more money? We have a 10-year, $100 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects, yet the previous Labor government cut back on infrastructure spending. We saw real wage growth fall by 1.6 per cent under the Labor Party; we have seen it grow by 2.3 per cent under this government.
What does structural reform look like? Well, you could look at industrial relations. Ever since the Labor Party's changes in 2008 and 2009, according to them, real wages have stagnated. As we've discussed, that's not entirely true. But it is true to say that, under the Howard government, they were much higher than they are now under the Labor Party's Fair Work Act. But every time you talk about changing it so that it reflects the stated objectives of Julia Gillard, the union movement can't help itself, the Labor Party can't help itself, the Greens Party can't help itself—in fact, the Left can't help themselves. They are immediately up anyone suggesting any structural reform in this area, and claiming that what it is all about is trying to sack workers. Well, it's not. It's simply about bringing about what Julia Gillard said she wanted to bring about, which is certainty and fairness. The Fair Work Act has not delivered that.
And then you have savings and retirement incomes and investments. Every time you talk about any sense of reform in this area, you have the industry super funds—just the other week, Greg Combet said, 'If you want to talk about this, we will go you with a multimillion-dollar campaign.' He was threatening members of parliament to act not in the interests of our nation but in the interests of the industry super funds and make sure they weren't injured by the millions of dollars of members' money they will spend. Now, I ask this chamber: how is that spending money in the members' interests, when all that this parliament is trying to achieve is the creation of a system that better reflects and better secures people's retirement?
Then you have the employee share schemes. Employee share schemes were developed by the previous Howard government to allow workers to benefit from the growth of the companies in which they worked. It aligned incentives. It meant that you weren't just working for a wage; you were working for the benefit of the entire enterprise. So what did Wayne Swan do? He made sure that these things were cut to ribbons. He lowered the rate from $15,000 to $1,000. He made sure that you were taxed upfront, not at the end. And, just to make sure that no-one could possibly look at this, he made sure that the Income Tax Assessment Act was in conflict with the Corporations Law. So, unless you are a company with $100 million worth of turnover and listed on the Australian stock exchange, ASIC will not actually give you relief in order to set up one of these schemes. It was the idea and the outcome of Wayne Swan, a Labor Treasurer, to ensure that workers had no incentive and had no claim to any profit that any company made.
Of course, let us not forget about their changes to class actions. In 2006, there were two class actions involving securities per year. It is now eight times higher. It is funded by offshore litigation funders. It is costing millions of dollars. Director and officer liability insurance is up by 500 per cent and some companies are having trouble placing the insurance. And who gets all this money? The offshore funders; not the shareholders, not the companies. We are currently feasting like locusts upon our corporate sector, which does the employment, which does the innovation, which pays a lot of tax in order for us to fund social services. They're some of the structural reforms where the Labor Party could come together with us to agree and talk about a way forward. But they don't want to talk about that.
It is, despite all of that, an honour to return here today as the member for Mackellar. As this is my first re-election, I'm gratified to be reinstated by my community with an increase in my primary vote. As we know too well, elections are hard work. I stand here as a result of the ongoing support from my wife and daughter and a village of volunteers who gave of themselves and of their time for reasons that I wonder at nearly as much as I am grateful for. Early morning bus stops, phone canvassing, door-knocking, street stalls on Saturdays—the dedication of this team knew no bounds. I thank them all. But though much was taken, much abides. The Northern Beaches community expects much from this government and, rightly, from me too. Like all communities, we have our challenges and our success stories.
For those who struggle and those who live the belief that of those to whom much is given much is expected, I would like to speak to some of you here today. All of us in this place come from unique communities. Even so, despite the ferocity with which we debate, there is much more that unites us than divides us. We spend too much time here constructing walls between ourselves rather than crossing the many bridges that already exist. My community, like so many others, believes that the only way to create and maintain a fair country is through freedom, for no person knows the path to happiness of every person. But care and compassion comes not from the generosity of the state but from our families, friends, neighbours and those voluntary organisations we choose to join and build. History's surest pathway to serfdom is by replacing equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. Our most solemn duty in this place is to preserve and protect all that is right with our nation for all who live in it. Ultimately, let those who judge us, both now and in the future, do so on the basis not of the treasures that we possess but of the gifts that we share.
Liberals throughout the ages have fought for the right of all people—no matter who they are or where they come from—to live life to its fullest potential. Any society organised on liberal principles will never allow a person's destination in life to be determined by where they came from. History has shown that government-enforced equality ultimately and quickly leads to injustice. But we cannot possibly be a parliament of equality of opportunity if we do not make education our highest priority. Too many of our fellow Australians are condemned to live lives of quiet desperation—cycles of poverty that cannot be broken, even when the will exists to do so. The parliament has predetermined that the right answer for everyone is a university education, despite the fact that in other nations only around 20 per cent of people choose tertiary education, and yet these nations provide better outcomes for the economy, national wealth, business formation, productivity, employment and real wages. The United States is just one example. The vast majority of companies in their top 20 by capitalisation were started after 1975. By contrast Australia's youngest company in the top 20 was formed before the Great Depression in the 1930s.
We continue to ignore best practice and inconvenient truths throughout the education sector. We ignored the fact that decentralised education systems are the most successful, as we continued to do all we could to centralise our education system. We ignored the importance of the training of teachers and experimentation in curricula as the major drivers of education outcomes as we ploughed billions of dollars into a system that is producing decreasing outcomes in education. In Australia there is currently a negative correlation between spending and education. We pretend that giving parents freedom to choose is somehow a bad thing for their children, them and our nation. But most of all we pander to a conga line of stakeholders whose self-interest goes unchecked and unchallenged. Our children suffer, our liberal ideals are undermined, the cycle of poverty continues, our economy and national dynamism suffer and the quiet desperation of so many continues to go on, unheard and unheeded. No matter, though—the good and the great are satisfied. If we are to live up to our highest ideals then this parliament should advance the cause of a better and more responsive education system for all, not just for some.
The Northern Beaches is a place of great natural beauty, and we know the fight is on to ensure we preserve our environment for future generations. So who better than the children in our community to show us the way towards a better tomorrow. In June I received an email from Miss Amanda Lewis, a year 5 teacher of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, at St Kevin's Catholic primary school in Dee Why. Miss Lewis has been taking her years 5 and 6 students to Dee Why Beach where they observe local beachgoers and the environment. What they saw was all too common and, more importantly, avoidable—cigarette butts on the ground, rubbish in incorrect bins, a lack of recycling facilities, and the list went on. This is a world that our children will inherit, and we owe it to them to include them as equal voices in these important conversations. Small steps will amount to real change if we all make an effort.
Mr Deputy Speaker Gillespie, did you know that Mackellar has more surf life saving clubs than any electorate in the country? I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I did not until very recently when Surf Life Saving Australia's CEO, Adam Weir, asked me to co-chair the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving. Surf clubs embody the great Australian value of volunteerism. The sheer geographical expanse of Australia's landscape and our relatively small population mean we rely on volunteers—those incredible people in our communities who are committed to the service of others—to keep us safe. Our clubs not only patrol our beaches but give back to their own communities. Importantly, young people are a mainstay of these organisations, learning early in life the values of service and leadership. I witnessed this firsthand at the awards night of Whale Beach and Long Reef surf life saving clubs, of which I am a proud patron. Presidents Andrew Pearce of Whale Beach and Peter Kinsey of Long Reef deserve our great praise.
As we all know, some Australians are born in this country and some Australians were born elsewhere in the world, choosing to make a life here as citizens. It is a frequent honour and joy to attend citizenship ceremonies for those who have chosen the Northern Beaches as their home. I'm often moved when I hear the personal stories behind the individuals who make this decision. While my story is special to me, it is not unique. Modern Australia was built by migrants like my grandparents. I'm sure that those I welcome into our community at these ceremonies will make a positive contribution, like my father and his parents before him did.
While it is a great privilege to call the Northern Beaches home, our community is not without its problems. Cottage Point is a small community of just over 100 residents on the western edge of Mackellar. This tight-knit community houses an RFS brigade, marine rescue and multiple businesses. They are located just 45 minutes from the Sydney CBD, yet they are without mobile reception. It's not an issue of convenience; it's an issue of safety. I have fought for this essential service since 2016 and I again call on Telstra to make use of the government's Mobile Black Spot Program, which I fought to make Cottage Point a part of. A phone tower must be built to provide the security of reliable phone reception.
The 46th Parliament is in its early days. However, I look forward to the three years ahead as a time of action, positive change and progress, both here and in my electorate on the Northern Beaches. I am proud to share in the responsibility that we have to our nation and our constituents and I urge all of us not to let them down.