Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
It's a great opportunity for me to be able to speak about the Finance portfolio in this consideration in detail and reiterate that Australia entered the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been our life for a little time, from a position of economic strength. We brought the budget back into broad balance for the first time since the Howard government. The fiscal position that we reached ahead of the pandemic ensured that we were then able to provide support to Australians in an unprecedented fashion. It is for this reason, amongst many, that the Australian economy has rebounded at its fastest pace on record, outperforming all major advanced economies in 2020.
The 2021 budget consolidates these gains from last year and has put Australia on course for an unemployment rate to fall below five per cent. As we all know, unemployment has reached just 5.1 per cent in the last few days, lower indeed than the 5.3 per cent recorded at the start of the pandemic in March last year. Our fiscal strategies are based around support for strong and sustainable private sector led growth and job creation, recognising that business conditions offer the pathway to a strong and sustainable fiscal position. The priority of the first phase of the fiscal consolidation is to bolster business conditions, improve confidence and create jobs. The aim of this phase is to ensure, as I've said, strong and sustained private sector led growth to drive the unemployment rate even lower. The second phase of our fiscal strategy is to grow the economy in order to stabilise debt. This commitment to balance-sheet discipline will be managed carefully, I can assure the House, so we retain flexibility to respond to changing economic conditions.
Our economic response to COVID-19 has inevitably come at a significant cost. The deficit will reach $161 billion in 2021, but this is some $52.7 billion lower than we expected just over six months ago at last year's budget, and is assisted by more Australians being in work and, of course, fewer Australians on welfare. It further improves to $106.6 billion in 2021-22 before further improving again to $57 billion of deficit in 2024-25. This budget reflects higher than expected tax receipts and lower than expected unemployment benefits—of course, due to the stronger economy. In 2021-22 the government will continue to make necessary investments to help grow our economy to deliver jobs, guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on and keep Australians safe.
One of the responsibilities of the finance portfolio relates to the oversight and governance of government business enterprises. In this respect, over the last seven years the government has made an investment of over $93 billion in government business enterprises to initiate or accelerate the delivery of vital productivity improving national infrastructure. This includes NBN, Inland Rail, Western Sydney airport, submarine and shipbuilding infrastructure in South Australia, Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and, notably, Snowy 2.0. These public investments are unlocking $25 billion of private sector investment, and support, amongst other things, job creation especially in regional Australia.
Jobs will also be created through Australia's Technology Investment Roadmap, which is expected to guide $18 billion of government investment over the next decade, drive at least $70 billion of new investment in low emissions technologies and support 130,000 jobs by 2030. We're investing an additional $2.7 billion to boost the apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy. In this respect, we're uncapping the number of eligible places and increasing the duration of the 50 per cent wage subsidy to 12 months. This further support to business is expected to generate 171,000 additional new apprenticeship places. Deregulation is also central to the government's JobMaker plan and includes $134.6 million in deregulation measures. These are estimated to deliver business a reduction in compliance costs of $430 million per year. Across a range of measures such as tax cuts, business investments, apprenticeships, training places and a pipeline of infrastructure we are ensuring that Australia comes back even bigger and stronger.