House debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Matters of Public Importance


4:10 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I want to start by joining some other contributors in acknowledging the terrible situation in northern New South Wales. In particular, I'm thinking of the people living in Alstonville, a town I lived in for a few years as a child. I went to Alstonville Public School, so I'm very concerned about what is happening there. I wish them and those needing to evacuate, and all the people who are helping in those communities, all the best.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk on this matter of public importance, which is about economic management, the state of our economy and where it is going. This is going to be central to the upcoming election campaign. I look forward to the opportunity on the campaign to be talking about our economy, where we are, where we've come from and where we are going. That's what last night's budget that was handed down by the Treasurer underpinned. We know full well the challenges that we have had to meet over the past two years in confronting the most significant economic risk and circumstance since probably the Great Depression, certainly the greatest challenge to our nation since the Second World War. I'm very proud of all of the elements of our economic response to the pandemic, such as the restrictions that had to be put in place and the economic support that flowed from that to make sure that our economy could survive those restrictions.

We know from the budget that JobKeeper was central to saving hundreds of thousands of jobs and supporting hundreds of thousands of businesses in my electorate of Sturt. I still come across people all the time in my electorate who talk to me about how vital having access to JobKeeper was for them to keep their business going and, of course, to keep people employed and connected to those businesses. There were the increased JobKeeper payments. The HomeBuilder program was an absolutely fantastic scheme that has been transformational for so many people to access housing, the great Australian dream, which the Liberal Party has always championed. Over decades when in government, the Liberal Party has been responsible for helping to support people to get into a home. We know how important that is. The HomeBuilder scheme was absolutely fundamental to that.

We did what was necessary as a government. We spent money that was necessary to support our economy and to support consumption in the private sector by providing government stimulus. We now find ourselves in a situation where we have recovered. We are rebuilding. We have more people employed in our economy than before the challenges that the pandemic beset us. That has put us in a position to do the things that were announced in the budget last night, which give people a great sense of optimism for the future whilst recognising that there are challenges, particularly around cost of living and meeting those costs. That's why our budget ensured that we put in place a range of measures to help support people who are struggling with inflationary impact, particularly when it comes to fuel, which is of course outside the control of anyone in this country or anyone in this parliament. International forces are at work there, but, nonetheless, we recognise the need to support people. In particular, the halving of the fuel excise for the next six months will be of enormous benefit to my constituents and people across the country in meeting those cost-of-living challenges.

The exciting parts of the budget are the forecasts around unemployment continuing to fall. It's already at four per cent, going into the threes and breaking records that, in some cases, are more than 50 years old. That is not only because of the important decisions that we've made over the past few years and the position the Australian economy is in now but because of the measures in the budget and what they are going to do to keep supporting employment growth in this country into the future. That's what underpins our ability to do absolutely anything else.

We're proud of what we're investing in essential services. I'm particularly proud of what we're doing in national security and defence. My electorate is a significant beneficiary of the sovereign defence industrial capability that we've invested in and are continuing to grow in this country, as are many other electorates across the country. But all that comes from a strong economy. All that comes from creating jobs and increasing the taxpaying basis so that we can provide the essential services that people need. We are a government that is doing that. I am very excited to get this campaign underway in a few weeks time and be out there in my electorate, like other members from the government will be doing right across the country, talking with pride about the decisions that we've made and the policies that we've put in place, particularly those in the budget last night, and what they mean for every Australian, giving them a future to be excited about and economic security that underpins their ability to plan for their future.


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