House debates

Monday, 21 November 2022

Private Members' Business

Economy

4:45 pm

Keith Wolahan (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) the previous Government's economic plan, implemented following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, left Australia in a better economic position than almost any other advanced economy; and

(b) the 2022-23 budget was an opportunity for the current Government to build on this strong position and address the cost-of-living crisis; and

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) on every measure, this Government has failed in its task to deliver for everyday Australians, through their budget with:

(i) the cost-of-living continuing to rise;

(ii) electricity and gas bills predicted to soar by 56 per cent over the next two years;

(iii) wages for Australian workers forecast to go backwards;

(iv) unemployment projected to grow; and

(v) tax increases; and

(b) Australians are being hampered by a new Government with no economic plan for the future.

In the pandemic years—I note, with many colleagues now testing positive, we're probably still in them—Australians faced an unprecedented challenge, particularly when COVID first came. Lockdowns, border closures, trade blockages—this was a time of uncertainty and grave risk. Our institutions were stress tested; our social fabric stretched thin. So many Australians were left wondering what tomorrow might bring. Were they to have a job? Was their business, particularly if it was a small business, to last?

In the face of this challenge, a Liberal government did act. A Liberal government delivered transformative stimulus spending under the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs. A Liberal government unwound the fuel excise. We did what needed to be done at the time. Under a Liberal government of the cash rate remained stable and unemployment reached record lows. Ideology was put aside and action was taken.

This motion is about the new government. The challenge the new government inherited was clear. In the post-pandemic age, stewarding the nation's finances means fiscal discipline. It means shouldering the burden for tackling inflation. It means honouring commitments to keep cost of living low. By each metric this government is not doing well, and in some it has failed. I'd like to consider them in turn.

Inflation drives up bills, it wipes off savings, it steals from progress. Today it sits at 7.3 per cent, the highest annual inflationary figure in more than three decades. What does the government do? Nothing to shorten the path to balancing the books. It is the old story of reckless spending. What does this mean for Australian families? Stephen Koukoulas, Julia Gillard's former economic advisor—certainly not in team blue—has stated as much: here is a government that has left the RBA with all of the work 'carrying the can in getting this inflation rate lower'.

When Labor shirks responsibility, families suffer. The rates will go up and mortgage payments will increase. Already a family on a $750,000 mortgage will pay an extra $1,200 per month compared with May this year. The pain does not end there. Goldman Sachs has forecast the possibility of a fivefold increase in the interest rate, and Goldman Sachs is not alone. The RBA, ANZ and Commonwealth Bank have all forecast end-of-year inflation higher than the budgetary forecasts. The Prime Minister promised the Australian people cheaper mortgages. No fine prints, no conditions—a simple promise. What we got instead is record price increases.

It could have been so very different. Supply-side reform is an option available to the government. A technology-friendly agenda is an option. Sustainable wage growth accompanies those. Productivity was supposed to be the name of the game. We were promised a 21st century economy. What we instead got was a 20th century enterprise bargaining code. Instead, the great trend of liberalisation was arrested. Instead of agility and dynamic, forward-looking thinking on the economy, we have returned to centralised wage fixing.

The Labor Party's industrial relations bill has invited the ire of every representative body for business. It is bad policy. It is anti-productivity, but it is also, sadly, predictable. The bill confirms what many Australians already suspected: that this is not a responsible, progressive, forward-thinking government but the mere political arm of its union paymasters. Empty promises. Missed opportunities. But this government is not done waging a war on productivity. Stage 3 tax cuts are now on the chopping block. These cuts were legislated. These cuts were part of your personal income tax plan. (Time expired)

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