House debates

Monday, 21 November 2022

Private Members' Business

Economy

5:01 pm

Tania Lawrence (Hasluck, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I must admit that I was a little wide-eyed upon reading this motion by the member for Menzies. He has reflected rather oddly upon the economic performance of the previous government, so let's set the record straight. The previous government bumbled its way through the COVID pandemic, just one of the reasons it was ceremoniously bundled out of office.

Prior to the pandemic, the previous government managed to double Australia's debt—well before the international health crisis. When the pandemic hit, the Morrison government had to be dragged by the scruff of the neck to introduce a wage subsidy scheme. Trade unions and the ACTU led that push and ensured the wage subsidy was better designed than it would otherwise have been. That is what kept Australia's head above water: unions and a Labor opposition putting workers, people, at the centre of the response to the pandemic.

Ignoring the coalition government and its dithering, the state and territory governments swung into action. They each had a plan. In Western Australia, the McGowan Labor government's plan was so well received that, at the election in 2021, Labor was rewarded with a record-breaking landslide win, securing 53 out of the 59 seats in the legislative assembly. At the risk of sounding a tiny bit parochial, McGowan's strong and assertive approach to protecting WA's population and economy created the $200 billion bedrock upon which Australia, as a nation, avoided some of the worst health and economic disasters experienced by comparable nations. In order to do so, the McGowan government had to spend a fair bit of time and energy ignoring the Morrison government's so-called plans.

This government has been upfront about the fiscal and monetary challenges it's inherited and is taking action. Treasurer Chalmers' budget delivered in October will be the first of many to start unscrambling the rotten eggs of $1 trillion of debt. The Liberals have left us with stagnant wages and rising inflation, all festering after a decade of denial and neglect. If the previous government were still in office now, the same cost of living challenges would be present, but not the same will or capacity to act. We're giving Australians a hand up out of difficult circumstances born of the previous government's decade of utter indifference. This is why we are investing in cheaper child care to give parents more options to work and earn, making PBS medicines cheaper to ease the cost burden and keep people healthier, getting wages moving again and empowering workers to earn more, and paying down the debt. Contrast that with the one-trick pony the previous government had become addicted to—handouts—an approach we know would not help Australian families and workers.

Only today, the Australian newspaper reported on how our fiscally responsible budget has spared many Australians from the pain of unnecessary inflation increases and further interest rate hikes—a rare compliment from the Australian and a case of credit where credit is due. To give some credit to the previous government, they were the masters of illusion. With so many announcements and so little delivered, you can only pretend for so long before you are found out, and they were found out six months ago. Yet I stand here responding to a motion created in the house of mirrors that created the economic challenges the Albanese government is now tackling head-on.

This motion mentions energy prices. Since May, we've had a minister for climate change and energy. The true path to long-term sustainable lower energy prices is the rapid transformation to a green energy economy based on renewables, a dependable grid and forms of storage including batteries. One by one, members of the coalition are come to that very realisation as, to borrow a phrase from former Treasurer John Dawkins, they each 'stumble backwards into the future'.

The member for Menzies also mentioned wages, after years of coalition governments when low wages were a deliberate design feature of their policies. This is after the first act of the Albanese government was to support a wage rise for low-paid workers. This is after the member for Menzies has sat in the House and heard many times the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations utter the phrase: 'We will get wages moving again.' I may have missed it, but I do not recall any coalition government ministers ever saying, 'We will get wages moving again'—certainly not while waving the legislation in their hand. It is, in any event, good to hear that at least the member for Menzies wants to see wages moving again and this is exactly what the 'secure jobs better pay' bill will do. I look forward to seeing that pass through the Senate over the course of the coming fortnight. The motion also mentions tax increases. It must be a lazy copy and paste from the Liberal Party playbook. No tax increases have been mooted by the government for ordinary taxpayers, so, unless members want to go into bat for tax-avoiding multinationals, perhaps it should have been omitted.

These are difficult times and challenges, and I'm proud to be part of a government that is taking action.

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