House debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Matters of Public Importance


3:34 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

It's a privilege to rise on a debate about the economy, especially after the budget we heard about last night. I say to the House: if your No. 1 attack after a budget has been delivered is 'the people on the opposite benches were not sitting correctly,' I really think you might be failing in your duty to go through the budget papers and understand what is in there.

Facts without context, as the shadow minister just put forward to the Australian public, really don't provide a narrative about what's been happening over the last three years, and I think Australians understand what has occurred over the last three years and what the government's response has been and why we need to do it. The coalition government under Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg's leadership has supported the economy, and that has meant that we have had to spend in unusual ways. JobKeeper and JobSeeker were programs that wouldn't normally come from any Australian government, let alone a coalition government, but they came because of the extraordinary circumstance of the pandemic. I can say to the Australian people and I can say to every member in this House: the government does not regret one cent that was spent on JobKeeper and JobSeeker because it guaranteed the survival of hundreds of thousands of small, medium and family businesses and supported 700,000 jobs.

So, when Labor gets up, when the shadow economic spokesperson, the shadow Treasurer, says, 'They've gone into debt,' I think Australians are smart enough to understand that yes, we have gone into debt, but we've gone into debt to deal with an extraordinary circumstance. We spent at unprecedented levels to support an economy where governments had said: 'You can't open your business. You can't leave your home. You can't go to work.' If the government didn't act, if the government didn't spend, what would have happened to those livelihoods and those jobs? Facts without context are really irrelevant. The context matters.

I think Australians know that we made the right call in supporting the economy. When the government says, 'You can't operate; you can't function; you can't live as normal,' of course the government has to step in and support these businesses and the economy. It's only proper. What's important is that the government has a plan for economic recovery, and what you heard last night from the Treasurer was that plan to recover. The coalition has a track record of supporting the economy at the right time with the temporary, targeted, proportionate measures designed to deliver that and to ensure that we do get that economic recovery as quickly as possible so people are able to grow their businesses.

It's why we're seeing unemployment now fall to record lows. It's not just unemployment; youth unemployment has fallen to levels we haven't seen in many decades. Female participation is at the highest levels we've ever seen. Female employment is at the highest levels we have ever seen. And there's more to come. The Prime Minister has committed that, if we are re-elected, we will see unemployment go into the threes. We'll see youth unemployment continue to drop. We'll see more work being done on getting people into jobs. And that economic plan is working.

We know that, of course, world events continue. Global supply chains are pushing up the cost of every single container to Australia. In a trade exposed economy that means five times the cost on every single container coming to Australia which pushes up prices. We know that the war in Ukraine means that oil prices are rising which means people are paying more at the bowser. So what's important is that a government response through a budget delivers temporary, targeted and proportionate relief, and so we have said and we have announced that it will happen in the coming weeks—that is, a cut to the cost of petrol. This is the right temporary and targeted measure, and it's temporary and targeted because we don't want to add to the inflationary pressures on our economy.

We're seeing inflation around the world worse than in Australia. Prices are going up. People are paying more for all goods and services in other countries. It's starting here, and, if the government does something to add to inflationary pressure, that won't help us. That won't help our families. What will help families is a halving of the excise on petrol. Why? Because it's a deflationary pressure on the economy. We know that most of our goods are moved in Australia by truck and road transport. We know that removing the excise by half will actually act as a deflationary pressure, at the same time as providing relief to households and family budgets. It's temporary, targeted and proportionate.

Remember, every time the shadow Treasurer gets up and says the debt's too high, that this is the shadow Treasurer who said we should continue the Jobkeeper and Jobseeker programs indefinitely. He said we should never have stopped them.


No comments