House debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

3:50 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

I'm delighted to speak on this motion about the lack of an economic plan from those opposite. Since the last federal election, Australia has seen a new experiment in economic policymaking in this country—not Keynesian, not Chicago School economics; what we are seeing from those opposite is 'crash-test dummy' economics. The way it works is this: you strap yourself into the car, take your hands off the steering wheel, close your eyes and ears to all external stimuli, and just head straight at the wall in front of you. The Prime Minister promised at the last election that his government would 'make a strong economy stronger'. But, while the government continues on oblivious, ignoring all external input, the economic warning signs are getting urgent. They're getting more regular and they're getting more concerning. Let's take a sample: economic growth has slowed since the election, slowed since Prime Minister Morrison became the leader and slowed since the Liberal Party has come into office. Unemployment has increased, with almost two million Australians now looking for work or looking for more work. Wages growth is slowing, with record lows: this government is presiding over the worst wages growth on record and wages are growing at one-fifth of the pace of profits. Household spending is growing at its slowest pace since the global financial crisis. And retail trade, important in the lead-up to Christmas, has recorded its worst result since the 1990s recession.

The sad truth underlying all of this is that household living standards for regular Australians have declined under this government, with real household median income lower now than it was in 2013. How's that for making a strong economy stronger? How good is that?—as this Prime Minister puts it. But those opposite have no plan to address this. Their only plan is denial. They don't care about the data. They don't care about warnings from people like the Reserve Bank governor. They don't care about the reality facing Australian families. All they care about is their political strategy—their political plan. Those opposite are obsessed with the 'Canberra bubble'. It's easy to see why the Prime Minister talks so much about the Canberra bubble: it's because that's the only place where it makes sense for this bloke to be the Prime Minister. It's the only place where his actions make any sense.

All those opposite care about is politics, and we've seen it in this last sitting week in this parliament. Those opposite could have brought an economic plan to this parliament to address these challenges that the nation is facing. But when we come into question time we see their agenda clearly. How many times did those ministers answering Labor questions in question time mention skills in the last fortnight? Eleven times. Wages? Eleven times. Productivity? Four times. How many times did they mention the Labor Party? 148 times. Physically, those opposite are on the government benches, but in their hearts this third-term coalition government is still in opposition. They're much more comfortable obsessing about the Labor Party than they are thinking about the lives of ordinary Australians and trying to come up with a plan to improve the Australian economy. They've got no policy agenda. All we've seen this week is union bashing and denying medical care to refugees. Great. That's going to break the productivity recession. That's going to create jobs. Well done.

All they care about is political gimmicks, and we've seen probably the most inane one today: a procession of government backbenchers standing up to deliver their dorothy dixers after being handed a new, cult-like mantra. Those opposite are not allowed to speak any more without starting their comments with: 'I am confident in the future of Australia'. I'm disappointed that there weren't cult robes distributed to everyone before we came into the chamber today—I'm sure that the Kool-Aid is being distributed in the party room at the moment. It's just bizarre. And, in this, we start to see the real Prime Minister: a bloke who's changed his signature three times in the last three years; a bloke who's changed his footy team four more times in the last three years; and a bloke who markets himself as 'just a daggy dad' for the cameras while his own colleagues background newspapers that they are worried that he is starting to behave like an emperor. He is a bloke whose smirk is quickly wearing thin, as Australia's economic conditions deteriorate, oozing condescension, mouth sneering with contempt at anyone with the impertinence to question him, whether they be journalists or opposition members in this parliament. One thing has been clear over the last two weeks: while the Prime Minister conducts himself like an emperor, this emperor has no clothes.

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