Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
For me as the representative of Goldstein, it's a pleasure to be able to stand here at the podium and ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Finance being in the Senate. Of course, I do so against the backdrop of a budget that was delivered focused squarely on what we need to do to get Australians in employment. Cast your mind back 12 months and think about where the Australian economy was at the time. We all looked with trepidation at the risks that were being posed from lockdowns and international measures which potentially could have stopped not just international tourists but also international trade and, of course, students. We were worried about the consequences of where we could end up, and the focus of the Morrison government at that time was to put energy and initiative into supporting households and families and, more critically, supporting Australians to stay in work during that time. That was the genesis not just of the JobSeeker supplement but, of course, of JobKeeper. JobKeeper was one of the most radical innovations in Australian public policy, through the use of Single Touch Payroll, to deliver income support to Australians through their employer, to make sure not just that people got the financial support they needed but, as measures declined in association with COVID-19, were able to get back into their jobs quickly rather than having employment relationships severed.
And that's the critical difference between this government and the government of Victoria. The Morrison government has been focusing on what we need to do to keep people in private sector jobs—what we need to do to support people so that they can be independent, contribute to the state of the economy and contribute to the growth of the nation as a whole. In the great state of Victoria, my home state, the primary thing the state government did was give public sector workers pay rises throughout the pandemic. Let's think about that. We had people with businesses who were on their knees. They were desperate for assistance and support through state government measures that forced them to shut down—many in the Goldstein electorate but, of course, throughout the entire state of Victoria—and the response from the state government was basically to tell them to go jump. They gave them virtually no support, no assistance. But what they did was take their tax dollars and give public sector workers, who already had significant job security—and, frankly, significant wages—a top up to reward them for that. We on this side of the chamber have nothing against public sector workers, but we do acknowledge that they're supported through the tax revenues provided by private sector workers and those who create the wealth of the nation. If you're going to have taxpayers, you can't have those that enjoy the benefits of that payment of tax. That's why our focus is always on what we need to do to harden and build up the strength of our country from the citizen, from the family, from the community and from the enterprise up, not through Canberra and state capitals down.
That is the great fallacy that sits at the heart of the mad ideology of the Australian Labor Party and the opposition and that is the enduring strength of the coalition's approach, particularly under a Liberal government. We understand how to build the strength of the nation to make it sustainable and put us in a position of strength not just on the world stage but to be able to provide support and assistance for Australians. That's the type of country we want and we're very proud to fight for every step of the way.
There are a lot of measures introduced in this budget that continue that position—continued support for people to make sure that those who are in a position to be able to employ themselves or provide employment for others can do so. The tourism sector continues to struggle as a consequence of international border closures—and the travel sector and travel agents. There are targeted measures in terms of other sectors that need additional support and assistance. But we are looking at COVID 19 not just as a challenge but as an opportunity: how can we be a global hub of capital, particularly using our geography and our isolation to our advantage? Rather than seeing the tyranny of distance as something that holds us back, it's a massive opportunity to contribute to the ongoing opportunities that are provided from it.
The critical question for the minister is to look at these challenges and how we are harnessing them. Minister, for the benefit of the opposition, who are on a constant journey of learning—and hopefully one day they'll get there—why is there a benefit in a privately led jobs recovery to get more Australians into work and to consolidate Australian position as a powerhouse economy, as though that question does not have a self-evident answer?