Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable member for McMahon proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to provide an economic plan for Australia.
I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
On 14 September last year, just outside this chamber, the member for Wentworth set a test for Prime Ministers. He laid out a test and said that the member for Warringah had failed that test. It was a test of economic leadership. The member for Wentworth said that any Prime Minister who failed that test should be replaced. He set the test and he has failed it. He set the test for the member for Warringah and then he proceeded to cut him down as Prime Minister. The member for Wentworth should now be replaced as Prime Minister, not in a party room coup, not in a secret meeting at Queanbeyan with Mal Brough, but by the Australian people at the next election, whenever he chooses to call it. Economic leadership will be an issue at the next election. The economic leadership of this Prime Minister, or the lack thereof, will be an issue at the next election. This Prime Minister and this Treasurer will be held to account.
Let's have a look at the Prime Minister and the Treasurer's track record. They came to office and they said, 'We're going to have a mature debate. We can lead the debate on increasing the GST because we're so much better as politicians.' We on this side of the House took a very clear position. We said, 'Increasing the GST will not add to economic growth.' We said, 'Increasing the GST would affect low- and middle-income earners the most.' We said, 'Increasing the GST would lead to a great big money merry-go-round or churn if low-income earners were to be compensated for it.' The Prime Minister and the Treasurer poured scorn on these arguments, they scoffed at these arguments, and then last week we saw the Treasurer at the National Press Club use exactly the same arguments as to why the government was now allegedly not proceeding with an increase in the GST. They have been reduced to repeating the arguments that we have used for the last 12 months. We saw the Treasurer seeking some credit for it, saying, 'Well, we thought about it. We deserve credit for not proceeding with it.' That was his great argument in his 46 minutes of nothing that he gave us last week—the great 46-minute speech. At least Rob Oakeshott had a conclusion and an answer at the end of his 17 minutes. We had 46 minutes of nothing. This is a Treasurer who gives the witness protection program a bad name! He can no longer appear even on his favourite radio programs to defend a record which does not exist.
It is quite clear that, when robbed of their agenda of increasing the GST—their one single idea of increasing the GST and putting it on health, fresh food and education—they have nothing. They have had 2½ years in office—six months for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer—and, with all the resources of the Treasury and the entire bureaucracy, they have not one single idea. All they can come up with is scare campaigns on our ideas. That is the entire economic agenda of the Prime Minister. That is what dominates his question time performance—not his own agenda, not the government's core business, but peddling mistruths about Labor Party policies. We are happy to talk about Labor Party policies because we have some. We have policies to debate. We have ideas to discuss. The Prime Minister comes to the dispatch box with an empty briefcase.
They cannot even get the scare campaign right. The Prime Minister has now decided to embark on a scare campaign on capital gains tax. He has done it on negative gearing—I will come to that in a moment—but it is now on the capital gains tax. Let's be clear: capital gains tax should be reformed. It is one of the fastest-growing tax concessions in the federal budget. If you earn your money on the factory floor, pounding the streets as a police officer, as a nurse in a hospital or in any occupation in the nation, you pay your full marginal rate of tax. But if you earn your money through a good investment—good luck to you—you pay half the marginal rate of tax. We say, 'When you're looking at the budget and fairness, that can't stand.' We say, 'If you think the pension should be cut or $80 billion worth of funding should be cut from health and education, we have a different idea.' We say, 'There can still be a concession for capital gains, but let's make it 25 per cent. That would be fairer.' The fact of the matter is that 70 per cent of the capital gains tax discount benefit goes to the top 10 per cent of income earners in Australia. Of course, the Prime Minister rides to its defence. Of course, he rushes in to defend the capital gains tax discount. But he gets it wrong as he does so. He stood at the dispatch box yesterday and claimed it would discourage foreign investment and drive out jobs from foreign investment, conveniently forgetting that the discount does not apply to foreign resident investors in Australia. Then he tried to waffle his way through that and say, 'It'll discourage corporations from setting up in Australia.' Well, incorporated entities do not get the capital gains tax discount either.
But the biggest problem was, of course, that he had his own plans to do with capital gains tax, his own plans to rein in the capital gains tax discount on superannuation. We had looked at that proposal and we said no. Superannuation is Australians saving for their future through compulsory savings. We will leave the capital gains tax discount undisturbed by our policy. But this Prime Minister has a different view and he does not have the honesty or the guts to tell the Australian people about it in a straight fashion. He chooses instead to launch a scare campaign about it. He launches the scare campaign. We have seen it done in this House before by Liberal prime ministers, by the member for Warringah. But to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: 'We know Tony Abbott, we worked with Tony Abbott, and this Prime Minister is no Tony Abbott.' He cannot conduct a scare campaign that he does not believe in, because he cannot even get his facts straight. We saw this on the capital gains tax and we see it on negative gearing.
Frankly, this goes to the Prime Minister's character: the Prime Minister willing to mislead about opposition policies, the Prime Minister willing to be dishonest about opposition policies. He runs a campaign saying that property prices will fall if negative gearing is abolished for anything except new properties. He says how terrible it will be if property prices actually fall. Then, at the dispatch box today, he says, 'Property prices are falling in Perth.' Well, guess what. They have negative gearing in Perth too—now, as we speak. And property prices, the Prime Minister reveals today, are on the decline in Western Australia.
What we see is a Prime Minister willing to mislead, to scare—the old 'reds under the bed' or 'put your money under the bed'. It is the old Liberal Party tactic: when in doubt, launch a scare campaign. We know that this argument does not stand up. Has the Prime Minister released any modelling to show that house prices will collapse under Labor's policies? He has got all the Treasury working for him, all the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Have we seen a document, one little document, of modelling released by the Prime Minister? Not a word.
And of course we have seen eminent economists debunk the Prime Minister's myth. We have seen commentators point out just how poor the Prime Minister's approach is. We saw Greg Jericho say of the Prime Minister's argument, 'It's a pretty silly argument that doesn't hold up under close examination.' But perhaps most damning of all, at five past two today—honourable members might not be aware—the economics editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins, said of this Prime Minister: 'Expectations were high, but now the Prime Minister is resorting to the same cheap tactics as the man he overthrew.' Isn't that right—the same cheap tactics as the man he overthrew, because that is all the Liberals have got.
We should have known, in fairness, that the government were planning an attack on superannuation through the capital gains tax, because they told us they were not. That is always a dead giveaway when it comes to this government. We had the Prime Minister saying that changing the capital gains tax played no part in the government's thinking. Today his defence was, 'Oh, that capital gains tax. I was talking about another capital gains tax.' Well, there is one capital gains tax in Australia. There is only one. The discount may apply differently, but there is one capital gains tax in Australia. When he said, 'We are not going to change it; it's not part of our thinking,' he cannot claim he meant the other one. There is no other capital gains tax for him to be talking about. The Prime Minister has been caught red-handed misleading the Australian people. After the Treasurer said that there would be no changes to superannuation, and the Prime Minister said that there would be no changes to capital gains tax, of course there are now going to be changes to capital gains tax and superannuation, because it is what they do: they say one thing and they do another.
What is very clear is that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer had a plan to knock off Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey but, apart from increasing the GST, they had no idea as to what to do next. I would have thought the Treasurer would want to take this MPI. I would have thought the Treasurer would want to be here to respond. He says he wants a debate, well, let us have one. I will debate him here. I will debate him at the National Press Club. I will debate him wherever he likes. But he has got to come with a policy, with a plan and with a vision. If he has not got one, he should make way for us, because we do. (Time expired)
We just had 10 minutes from Labor that was supposed to be about economic management and economic planning, and we did not hear anything about economics—nothing at all. So let us get back to talking about the economics of government policy, the economics of good policy, and perhaps then we can get to the bottom of what it will really take, what it is really taking, to plan for a better Australia, for a higher income Australia, for a higher wage Australia and for an Australia with more employment.
At the heart of our plan are innovation, productivity and access to fast-growing markets. These are things which those opposite understand nothing about, and I will come back to that in a moment. But what we have from Labor is a plan to make us all poorer and to make them feel better by whacking anyone with aspiration, whacking everyone with aspiration. That is what they are after. They want to see a plan that makes aspirational Australians worse off. They want to see a plan that thwarts opportunities for every Australian that wants to have a go.
What is at the heart of Labor's plan? I call it the 'tax, spend and shrink' plan. It is a plan that is designed to make the Australian economy smaller. Let us look at the numbers. We saw in the Press Club presentation which they referred to a moment ago a chart, on page 22, which every person opposite should take very close notice of. The chart is entitled 'Tax and spend is no plan for jobs and growth'. There are a couple of numbers on that chart that I really want to emphasise. The chart tells us that, for every extra dollar of tax and spend, you shrink the economy by 40c. Labor crow that they are going to tax and spend $100 billion more. That is their number—$100 billion more. Every Australian needs to understand that their plan is to shrink the economy by $40 billion. That is their plan. They are the numbers. They are Treasury numbers and they are very clear. You can see them on page 22 of the excellent presentation made by the Treasurer at the Press Club last week. So it is tax, spend and shrink. Every Australian needs to understand that those opposite want less income for Australia, fewer jobs for Australians and less wealth for Australians.
It is worthwhile spending a moment to talk about the taxes that are going to deliver that extra $100 billion of tax and spend. What are those taxes? We have heard today that at the top of the list are negative gearing and capital gains tax. I have never struck an economist who thinks that taking one-third of demand out of the market is not going to crash the market.
It is worth spending a moment to understand these figures. The Australian housing market is worth over $5 trillion. If you took 20 per cent out of that market that would be a trillion dollars out of the market. The average Australian household is carrying about $200,000 to $250,000 of household debt. That is $2 trillion in mortgage debt, and you want to wipe up to a trillion dollars off the housing market by imposing negative gearing on the market. At the end of the day a party that wants to destroy the wealth of every Australian household having a go, that wants to destroy the income and the aspiration of every Australian wanting to have a go, is a party that does not deserve to be in government.
The second tax that I want to spend a moment on is the smoking tax. In the last week or so we have heard that Treasury has been forced to write down future tobacco excise revenue by $700 million just two years from the forecast set out in the 2015 budget. This is a real problem for Labor's costings. We know the reason for that is that when you raise taxes you reduce smoking incidents and you increase chop-chop—you increase illegal tobacco. So Labor cannot even get their basic numbers right.
In 20 years as a management consultant I have always felt that the best way to understand whether someone's plan is worth looking at is to look at the track record of the person making the claims, and the track record of Labor in understanding plans and markets is pretty interesting. We heard earlier today something about Labor's achievements on the live cattle export market. If we look at this market we see that before Labor destroyed the market it was worth $4 a kilo. By 2012—six months after they had cut the live export market—we saw the price fall from $4 to $3, which is a 25 per cent reduction. Then when we got back into power we saw it rise to $5 then to $6. This is Labor at its best. This is Labor trying to understand and plan for markets, and trying to understand how best to deliver wealth for Australians. We saw exactly the same in the mining tax debacle. This was Labor's attempt to deliver to Australians better schools and hospitals, but it was a tax that delivered absolutely nothing.
Let us move to the contrast. We understand what is at the heart of economic management. I will quote Paul Krugman. It turns out Paul Krugman is an economist that those from the left tend to revere. He said:
Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.
What we see is that productivity delivers real wages that are higher, incomes that are higher and more opportunity for wealth creation.
At the heart of the coalition's policy for the economy is innovation: innovation in the private sector and innovation in the public sector. That is something that those opposite will never understand. That is something that those opposite will never be able to deliver, because none of them have been involved in delivering that in the private sector or in the public sector. Innovation delivers productivity because it delivers more with less. Paul Krugman, an economist from the left, understands that well.
The second big driver of innovation is investment. What we have seen under a coalition government is a switch from mining investment to non-mining investment. We are seeing that picking up pace now. We are seeing part of it occurring in the private sector and part of it occurring in infrastructure investment in the public sector.
Finally, right at the heart of our policy for economic growth is free trade. Every economist knows that the best opportunities for productivity, the best opportunities for improved terms of trade and the best opportunities for rising incomes are provided by free trade. Ours is a party that watched Labor deliver absolutely nothing on free trade agreements in its time in government. In our relatively short time in government we have delivered China, Korea and Japan and we are well on the way to delivering the TPP. In time, I am very confident that our new trade minister, with the support of the old trade minister, will deliver on India as well.
Right at the centre of free trade is the ability of a country to specialise in what it does best. We are watching in front of our eyes—in markets like cattle and dairy—Australians do what they do best and sell those products and services to the world. That is made possible by free trade. That is made possible by specialising and focusing on what we absolutely do better than any other country in the world.
Labor has a plan to shrink the economy. Labor has a plan to make every Australian poorer. Labor has a plan for lower income, lower wages and fewer jobs. We have a plan for higher wages, higher income, more wealth creation and more opportunity for every Australian.
What a failure to defend the government's record. Of course, we know that the government do not have a record to defend. What we see here is the failure of the coalition to actually prepare for government. Under Tony Abbott, the coalition was turned into the 'no-alition'. They just said no to everything. They did not do the hard yards in policy development that you need to do when you are in opposition and which you can then take into government and into implementation. That is something that this opposition is doing right now in leading the national policy and ideas debates.
Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government but no plan to govern. Six months after his demise, history is repeating itself. Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to defeat Tony Abbott but no plan for what would happen afterwards. He is a man who is at war with his own party. But more importantly than that, he is at war with himself. He is at war with the views that he has held on climate change, on marriage equality, on cities and on planning. On all of these issues he talks a lot but he has nothing to say. This government is an ideas vacuum. That is why Mr Abbott and now Mr Turnbull have struggled when it comes to having an economic plan, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the area of infrastructure.
Under this government, public sector infrastructure investment has fallen by 20 per cent. It has collapsed. Private sector infrastructure investment has fallen by even more. This mob have cancelled every single public transport infrastructure project that was not already under construction—every single one. And when it comes to where the money went that they took out of public transport, the projects that it went to, you look at the East West Link in Victoria—a project that they still trumpet which had a benefit of 45c for every dollar that was invested. It is no wonder that the new minister, with his training wheels on, had to come into the chamber last night and correct the record because he gave an answer yesterday that was not right. I was a minister for six years and never had to do that. Of course, just today the Victorian government has submitted the business plan again on the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. We say that is the No. 1 priority for Victoria. Victorians say it is the No. 1 priority. They voted for the Andrews Labor government because it was the No. 1 priority, and yet this mob want to continue with that.
Then we have Perth Freight Link, which has been knocked over in the courts; and, of course, WestConnex, which the minister raised, was costed at $10 billion but now is worth $16.8 billion. We were promised cranes on the skyline and bulldozers working on new projects within a year, but the only thing we saw on the skyline was Bronwyn Bishop's helicopter. That is all we saw in those two years. When it comes to the bulldozers, what we have seen is bulldust. We have seen bulldust from this mob's magical infrastructure reannouncement tour. They have been running around the country claiming projects as their own because they do not have a record to point to. The only hole they have dug is the one that they buried the member for Warringah in. That is the only hole that they dug—although they did dig a hole in Palmerston on the Friday, for the hospital, but they filled it in on the Saturday, a day later. That lasted just one day.
They have failed with regard to cities. They appointed a minister, then sacked him two months later, and now they have not even bothered. Their entire urban policy agenda has gone to dust, just like all of their policies when it comes to infrastructure, just like their lack of an economic plan. Ben Franklin said: 'By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.' They have failed. (Time expired)
I rise with great joy to talk about our economic plan. Earlier the member for Hume, the new Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, talked about free trade agreements. I will be talking about how great those have been not only for our country but also for my local economy. I will also pick up on the member for Grayndler's comments about infrastructure and highlight some absolutely wonderful local infrastructure projects and how they are building job growth in my local economy.
I was also thinking about another plan that needs to be tied into economic plans, job growth and everything else, and it reminded me of the statement back in 2009 from the then Prime Minister, who said that the greatest moral challenge of our time was the threat of climate change. We have a plan for that as well; it is part of our economic plan. We have a direct action policy that is lowering emissions and achieving our aims and our global obligations. The party that was talking about the 'greatest moral challenge of our time' has no plan. Seven years later, there is no plan on that economic policy. So we wait with great interest to find out what your plan is going to be with climate change. You have no plan for something that was the 'greatest moral challenge' seven years ago.
Let us go back to the free trade agreements and how they have been great for my local economy. Some of the great businesses in my local economy are exporters. The Northern Co-operative Meat Company—which is the biggest private employer in my region—employs 1,200 people and exports 70 per cent of its product. They are a great exporter. They are gaining access to new markets and new volumes and better prices because of the free trade agreements that this government has done. That is good for the producers of the product and it is good for the 1,200 meatworkers. They are the biggest private employer, employing 1,200 peopl It is great for those workers. These free trade agreements have reinforced that.
One of the next biggest employers is Norco, a dairy cooperative. They export. I had a constituent who was in China about three weeks ago and she saw Norco milk on the shelves in a Chinese supermarket. She took a photo of it and sent it back. What a great thing that is for the local dairy workers at the Norco Co-operative and for the producers.
These free trade agreements go far and wide with lots of different products. Ridley Bell is planting one of the biggest blueberry farms in the region out near Tabulam. He is going to access the Chinese market for a three- or four-month period where he will be able to satisfy that. I heard the minister the other day talk about macadamia nut exports and how that sector is experiencing exponential growth. I could go on with much, much more but let me go on to infrastructure.
The infrastructure spends by this government have been great for my region because of jobs and growth. Take the Pacific Highway upgrade. I remind the opposition that when they were in government, they were going to put $3½ billion on the table. They wanted to go back to a 50-50 funding split. We put $5.5 billion on the table to revert to the 80-20 split. The direct and the indirect jobs from the project as well as the saving of lives from highway upgrade is a great thing.
There is also the new infrastructure program by our government with the Bridges Renewal Program. This is delivering infrastructure spend in my local economy. One local council got six bridges in the last round. Again, this is great for jobs and for my local economy. Also, there is the Stronger Regions Fund. This government have got behind this program and in the last round there were five programs in my local region and my local economy. These are all good, job-supporting programs and infrastructure spends that are helping local jobs and growth in my local economy.
If there is one thing that defines this government above all the other things it is this spectacular collision between their words and their deeds. For a Prime Minister who considers himself to be an intellectual giant, a man who considers himself to be a colossal genius, he really is a very, very slow learner. The Prime Minister of this country is yet to learn that when you say one thing and do another, it catches up on you. This Prime Minister is yet to learn that when you pretend to be all things to all people, eventually they figure you out. And most importantly of all and most consequentially of all for this Prime Minister, he is only just working out now that when you say something at that dispatch box, the good people of Hansard write it down.
The reason it is consequential for him right now is that he said there, on the other side of the desk, 24 hours ago in this House:
… increasing capital gains tax is no part of our thinking whatsoever.
He could not have been clearer when he said:
… increasing capital gains tax is no part of our thinking whatsoever.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, while the Prime Minister is saying they are not going to touch it, in his own office and in his own cabinet there is a secret plan to smash the superannuation balances of Australian working people. At the same time as he says they have no plan, they are working on that.
How do we know that there was a secret plan to smash superannuation balances by changing capital gains tax? His own office leaked on him. Whenever there is a leak out of this government and people say, 'Who do you reckon is leaking on the Prime Minister?' I think it is easier to think, 'Who isn't leaking on the Prime Minister?' Who is not leaking on this Prime Minister at the moment, even his own office?
This is a man who goes to the wall to protect people with seven investment properties like he has. This is a man who will fight to his dying breath to protect people with seven properties, but will never lift a finger for people trying to crack the housing market or people trying to save for their own retirement. This has real consequences for Australian working people. It is why Tom Garcia from the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees said, 'Reducing the CGT discount on super would hit the retirement savings of all fund members, undermine investor confidence in the compulsory system and distort investment markets.' These are the very real consequences of this secret plan, combined with what they have done to abolish the low-income super contribution, freeze the superannuation guarantee and this genius idea to let low-income workers opt out of the super system completely.
Today, we had the sad and pathetic spectacle of a Prime Minister who said that he would provide economic leadership to this country. The whole rationale for knocking out old mate over there in the corner was that he would provide economic leadership. Instead, all we have from this Prime Minister and all of his minions is waffle and weasel words. On the Hansard of this parliament, the official record, it could not have been clearer, 'We're not looking at capital gains tax.' And today when he was asked about it, he was offended. How dare we quote the Prime Minister's own words back to him! Is it any wonder, as the member for McMahon said, that Ross Gittins has said that the PM has resorted to the same cheap tactics as the man he replaced.
On that side of the House, it is an economic policy circus. The Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the member for Hume are the clowns. They have done the impossible. The member for Hume stood here before and did the impossible: he made Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott look like economic geniuses. When he stood up here, and when the Prime Minister stood up here before, he did the impossible: he made the Abbott-Hockey era look like the golden age of economic policymaking in this country, the glory days of economic policymaking in this country.
There is one thing the Prime Minister said with which we agree, to be fair. He said, 'When it comes to economic policy, we are not rushing in.' That is what he said about their economic policy. That is true. After 2½ years, we have more debt, more deficit, high spending, tax to GDP at historic levels, employment higher than during the GFC, more chaos and confusion, but nothing whatsoever that resembles an economic plan for the future of this country. What that says about this Prime Minister after 2½ years is that he is long on promise, high on expectations but, at the end of the day, his economic policy is zero. It is nothing; it is nada. Like everything else that the Prime Minister of this country wanted us to believe he believed in, his economic policy is just a mirage, like all the other things—the republic, marriage equality and climate change.
Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this matter of public importance, and thank you to those opposite for choosing to give the parliament a full hour to detail the economic leadership that this coalition government has provided for our nation.
We have an economy that is in transition. As the mining investment boom peters out, there have been significant challenges placed on the economy, and yet through this, according to Australian Bureau of Statistic figures released last week, we have added 298,300 new jobs in the 12 months to January. This has led to an annual jobs growth rate of 2.6 per cent, which is well above the decade average of 1.8 per cent. These stellar results follow the government's outstanding efforts in opening up overseas markets through the signing of free trade agreements, our encouragement of competition through our response to the Harper review and our investment of more than $50 billion in infrastructure. To complement all of this, our innovation agenda will help to create a modern, dynamic 21st century economy as we implement key measures to continue building growth, confidence, workplace participation and, above all, more jobs.
We have announced 24 measures, involving $1.1 billion of spending, to create highly paid jobs and help Australia compete globally. This will encourage every business across the country to be more innovative, more entrepreneurial and more prepared to take risks. As the member who is proud to represent a region known as the 'beating heart of innovation' in Australia, I understand the need for us as a government to back Australians to innovate so they can back themselves to produce and provide towards our nation's economic growth.
Part of this conversation is the need for tax reform. Proposals to implement such changes need to be approached and considered in a rational and methodical manner. Australians do not expect policy development to be a running race; they expect their elected representatives to work through the issues, engage the nation in a conversation and finally create a better and more sustainable tax system. As an example, in the later months of last year we did not shy away from a discussion on the GST. Through this conversation, Treasury modelling showed us that raising the GST in exchange for lowering income tax will not deliver significantly higher GDP growth. For this reason, the government will not be taking a GST proposal to the next election.
In this regard, at the next election, the Prime Minister and Treasurer will seek a mandate for tax reform that will drive stronger growth, savings and investment. We on this side understand that Australians are out there every single day working hard and earning and they pay taxes on those earnings. They save for their future and for their children, and they are investing in the opportunities that are out there. These are our constituents and they are key to jobs and growth in this country. They see an economy that is growing and is doing better than all the key economies in the OECD.
Let history be our teacher. When Labor were last in power, they stopped the live trade of cattle to Indonesia. This was an industry that employed the greatest number of Indigenous workers in the vast northern region. It generated over $700 million in export income each year. It was devastated and Australia, for the first time, was labelled as a nation of sovereign risk. Labor entered into an agreement with the pharmaceutical industry to abide by PBAC approvals in exchange for certain concessions. This agreement was reneged on and, around the world—Boston, Zurich, Geneva, London and New York—Australia was again seen as a nation of sovereign risk. Now to this policy on housing that is going to take away a third of the market.
Thank you. He can read the clock. Pity you can't do your numbers a little bit better. This is at a time when the Secretary of the Treasury has warned us that we are in a bubble situation. The market is volatile. This is a market that affects every single person who owns a house, rents a house or invests in housing. Yet this opposition, who would seek to be government, would devastate this $5 trillion market and devastate the value of every home or investment property owned by an Australian. The policy is awful and the timing is even worse. (Time expired)
Last week the Treasurer visited the Press Club and, after 46 minutes, one side of the country looked at the other side of the country and said, 'What was that?' and the other side of the country went—
An opposition member: Alan Jones said, 'What was that?'
Alan Jones and Ray Hadley. Everyone was wondering, 'What was that?' It was the weirdest speech from the person who is central to creating an economic plan, an economic vision, for the nation. What stood out—apart from nothing—in that speech was when he started recalling his friendship with some bloke called Clay Nelson from Texarkana. He is a Morrison mate. I should have guessed why he would be interested in this person. Apparently, Clay and his hunting friends would play pranks, such as throwing alligators in each other's tents. It sounds just like the coalition party room. No wonder these guys got on like a house on fire. The Treasurer said:
Clay would sit down with a client or a mate or a friend or whatever and the first thing he'd always say to you was: how can I help you win today?
Which is probably what he said to Malcolm. The Treasurer went on:
When you heard that for the first time, you sort of recoiled a bit as an Aussie and said 'That's a bit full-on. That's a bit much. Does the guy really mean it?'
And now they have become great friends. Then the Treasurer decided to channel Clay and he had this thing about how he would apply this to his job. He said: 'How can I back you in today?' This is what Scott Morrison is saying to the Australian public:
I'd say 'how can I back you in today?' How can I, as Treasurer, how can the Government back you in in terms of what you're doing and what you're hoping to achieve? And that's our job.
Who is this man? Is he the Treasurer or Anthony Robbins? This is a weird approach.
After he delivers his budget speech in May will he say, 'Do you want a side of fries with that?' Is he going to upsize the budget at the end of it all? This is what we are expecting out of the Treasurer—that he will have this sort of hokey pokey motivational speaking type approach, when really the person who needs motivation the most is the Treasurer himself. He has had the rug pulled out from under him. He spent the bulk of his time talking up a GST which did not happen. He has no other options on the table. He looks at ours, rules them out and then talks about how he will bring them in himself. That is all he has.
The Treasurer talks about how he can help us today. I will tell him how he can help us today: come up with a plan. Why don't you come up with some sort of idea to help the economy? Why don't you actually do things that help people? Here's an idea: if you want to help people, why don't you make sure that education is properly funded in this country, make sure that our schools have a proper sense of funding instead of cutting everything? The opposition leader announced that we would back in and do what that side of politics said they would do at the election, that they would fund every single school properly. Why don't you do that? That is a plan in investing in the future of the nation, making sure we have the skills we need and helping the economy grow. How about that as a plan? Our communities want better health care. How about we don't force a whole lot of people to wait on the sidelines or to suffer and endure substandard health systems? Why don't you actually invest in that? How about you help us by putting back the money you cut from schools and from hospitals. How about that as a plan? When government revenue has been undermined by the fact that multinationals are gaming tax systems all over the globe, how about you come up with a plan like we did to tackle that—a real one, as the member for Rankin said, that would deliver $7 billion in terms of additional revenue for this country. When we have wealthy superannuants with accounts of $2 million and they draw $75,000 a year, how about we wind back the concessions and deliver something that is fairer to people instead of ripping superannuation out of low- and middle-income Australia? How about that? If you want to help us, come up with a plan like Labor has.
As Labor has said, there are problems in this country that we need to be able to deal with, but the textbook, the playbook, of that side of politics is this: whenever there is a problem in public life turn to one group of people to slug—low- and middle-income Australia. It is not a plan whatsoever. If you want to help us, get out of the way and let Labor lead this country again.
It is indeed a great pleasure to speak on the MPI on the government's failure to provide an economic plan for Australia. I just want to acknowledge the contribution of the member for Page, who rightly set out the government's plan when he spoke about how it affected his electorate. He spoke about the ongoing rollout of the CCT program. He spoke about the wide-ranging benefits of the free-trade agreement that are flowing today to his electorate, and gave an example of meatworks. He spoke about stronger communities grants. They are the fundamental building blocks of our plan. They are the fundamental building blocks for a plan to move this country forward and built on the principles of growth and jobs. We will continue to make sure that that becomes our mantra—growth and jobs—as we take our plan forward.
I draw to the attention of the honourable members in the chamber here today to the front page of today's The Australian paper. A Newspoll had polled on the two leaders, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, and the economy. The results were resounding. The Australian people believe that the plan that we have, and that we are taking to the election, is sound, because it has been well-laid out. The evidence from the Newspoll, 58 to 22, was that Australians believe in our plan. They believe in our plan on climate change—51 to 23. They also believe in our national security plan—55 to 21. So, on all measures, the Australian public overwhelmingly support our plan.
When you have a plan you need to take the Australian public with you, and there needs to be an element of trust. I talk no other than our historical record when it comes to economic management. When we took government some years back, there was $96 billion worth of debt—
Absolutely, because that is the plan that brought us back to economic prosperity. Back in those days, we had the opportunity to sell down a rather large asset for $45 billion in the way of Telstra. We no longer have those assets, so our path to economic fiscal recovery will be somewhat longer. But we are up for the journey, because we will reduce our spending in the forward estimates.
I cannot miss the opportunity to follow the line of commentary that my colleagues have taken when it comes to Labor's past plans and record—that is, when you rush out policy it can be detrimental to the economy. I speak of none other than the old chestnut of the live cattle export debacle. The point I make with reference to live cattle export is that we only had eight per cent exposure to the international market. We talk of an 'enormous' hit. In my electorate of Wright, when those cattle no longer had homes, or markets to be filled in the international space, the cattle prices were immediately impacted in my local selling yards of Beaudesert, Moreton, Silverdale and Kalbar.
Labor, today, have spoken with great gusto about their capital gains tax plan. I suggest that, on every level, it fails every test. Influencing 30 per cent of the market to exit will have a detrimental impact in that space. I remind the House of Labor's plan for the mining tax. They rolled out a mining tax—a tax that raised no money. It was ill thought out. I remind the House of Labor's of the pink batts program—they rushed the rollout of that plan. There are many other program debacles because they were rushed and not well thought out. We will make no apology for working carefully, methodically, diligently towards jobs and growth with our new jobs packages.
Turning to the current economy and the transition we are making from the mining economy to the service economy, our plan has delivered just on 300,000 new jobs since we have been in office. We have seen the employment rate growing at around 2.6 per cent—higher than the average decade growth rate at 1.6. I want to talk about our plan and to remind the House of free-trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China. This plan is well thought out. As a government, we are the best sort to lead the country.
It is such a pleasure to speak in this debate, on this matter of public importance, about the government's failure to deliver an economic plan for this country, because hasn't that failure been so comprehensive, so utterly disappointing? This is a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who swept into office six months ago on the basis of what they said was the member for Warringah's failure to have an economic plan.
'A failure to have an economic plan' rings a bell for me. What happened? Six months later there is no economic plan. All we have seen is flipping and flopping and dithering. This man could dither for Australia. It is deeply impressive how much this man can dither. We are talking about a Prime Minister who says, 'We don't want to rush into any policy.' You have had six months as Prime Minister. You are not going to rush. You will be lucky to get any policy out, before the election, the way you are going, Prime Minister.
What have we had, here, today? Has the Prime Minister bothered to come in and defend his government's lack of an economic plan? No. Did the Treasurer bother to come in for this debate?
He is still at the Press Club giving the longest most waffling speech of all time. They sent in the poor old parliamentary secretary, the member for Hume—the Ronald Reagan of Australian politics, with his Reagan era slogans and his Reagan era belief in the trickle-down economics model that has been so categorically discredited and disproved. The Reagan of this parliament came in and said: 'Guess what? I have a big surprise for everyone. It's a massive shock. You're going to be amazed!' It turns out, for economic growth—I know you guys are going to be amazed—you need productivity. My God! We were shocked. We were amazed by his economic insight.
This is a man who spoke for most of his speech about his management consultancy background. He did come in with his little bit of advice for us, it turns out, that productivity matters. But hang on a minute—what is his portfolio? Is it cities? It is. He is the parliamentary secretary for cities. Isn't that fantastic! Isn't about 83 per cent of our economic activity taking place in Australia's cities? It is about that. You would think that a parl sec for cities would come in here and talk about productivity. You would think that he would connect the dots and talk about productivity in our cities. Maybe that will be part of their plan. Maybe they will think about the need to increase the productivity of cities—along with liveability and sustainability.
What did he talk about? He had nothing to say about improving the productivity of our cities. He had nothing to say about the fact that under this government public sector investment in infrastructure has collapsed by 20 per cent. He had nothing to say about the fact that this government has taken away funding for public transport. He had nothing to say about the fact that this is a government that cares so little about productivity that instead of getting on with a real tax reform debate all they have been prepared to do is flop around with ideas, run things up flagpoles and pop up balloons.
And what do you see? What is the consequence, for the nation, of these failures? We have a Treasurer who is channelling the Prime Minister by being a world-class waffler at the Press Club. And wasn't that a train wreck! We have a Prime Minister who is channelling the guy he deposed. Imagine being the member for Warringah in today's question time. Wouldn't you be sitting there going, 'Oh, my God! What on earth.' I am a much better Abbott than this guy is, yet they put him in. Seriously, Malcolm, you are not as good an Abbott as Abbott. If you are going to be Abbott you might as well have the actual Abbott. I bet you guys who voted for Tony are saying, 'We were right.' Why did all you guys vote for Malcolm? There was no change. Surely, if you were in that party room, right now, you would be thinking, 'I wonder if all that pain was worth it?'
The Prime Minister is a second-rate Abbott. The Treasurer is a second-rate Prime Minister. And what is the consequence for the nation? They cannot even work out what they want to do with CGT. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was in here saying, 'That is no part of our thinking, whatsoever.' What happened last night? We found out that, in fact, touching the CGT was part of their thinking. How did we find out? The Prime Minister's own office leaked against the Prime Minister! What an own goal. Let's be honest. Anyone in this government could have leaked it. You all want to. I have read your talking points from today. I have had a sense of deja vu, during the course of this debate, having already read what you were going to say.
Putting that to one side, we all know that this is a Prime Minister who has no idea of what is going to happen with tax reform. To be proven so clearly, today—and for him to stand up in question time and try to convince us that even though we had repeated the words that he had said, somehow, the rest of the world was wrong, because Malcolm could not possibly, just demonstrates the hubris of— (Time expired)
I appreciate this opportunity to talk about economic plans. I am particularly pleased that the member for Rankin is in the House, because he was at the heart of the Labor Party's economic plan from 2008 to 2013. I will be saying something about that later on in my speech. Deputy Speaker, I would like to provide you with a case study on economic plans. I am going to use my home state of Tasmania because, by any measure, Tasmania is in a much stronger position today than it was at the time of the 2013 election.
When I went the 2013 election the unemployment rate in Tasmania was 8.6 per cent. I am pleased to say that today it is some 25 per cent lower, at 6.6 per cent, with some 10,000 jobs created. Our state colleagues report that Tasmania's finances are under control. They will be back to surplus in 2017 and every year of the forward estimates. Compare that to the situation that existed when the governor-general opened the 44th Parliament. I listened to her remarks with mixed feelings, because she singled out Tasmania for some special attention. What we heard was a very poor dividend for 16 years of Labor and Labor-Greens government in Hobart and six years of Labor and Labor-Greens government, here, in Canberra. At that time, the unemployment rate in Tasmania was the highest in the country. The participation rate was the lowest.
Opposition members interjecting—
Members opposite can laugh at that, but it was a serious state of affairs affecting many people in my community. There had been 11,000 full-time jobs lost, in Tasmania, between 2010 and 2013. In 2010, you might recall, the Bartlett government began its alliance with the Greens. I have a quote from The Examiner dating back to 16 February 2012. It states:
A predicted underlying surplus has been revised as a big deficit … economic growth is expected to decline … the Government will fail to meet savings targets … unemployment will continue to be relatively high … on top of this gloomy set of numbers, the forestry peace process has collapsed … Ms Giddings and her Greens cabinet colleague Nick McKim are at war … cabinet solidarity has been so bastardised as to be unrecognisable.
It was so bad that the front page of The Examiner on 12 July 2013, just before the 2013 election, announced that Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister, was coming to Tasmania on a rescue mission on the back of the worst employment figures in Tasmania in the last 10 years. So it is little wonder that Labor got the worst vote in a century at the 2013 election and the Giddings government was thrown out in 2014. It is little wonder today that Tasmanians fear the return of the Labor frontbench, because it is pretty much unchanged from the same group that caused such economic vandalism from 2008 to 2013. We have a situation today where we borrow $1 billion every month just to pay the interest on our debt. That is $12 billion per year—an extraordinary opportunity cost that would fund 12 new teaching hospitals in this country.
I have news for the member for Rankin, who keeps interjecting: Australians do not want a return of Labor's economic plan. They do not want your tax, borrow and spend plan. What sort of plan is that? The member for Rankin celebrated that our debt to GDP ratio was below that of Spain, Greece and the other sick countries of Europe. Australia does not want your economic plan, member for Rankin, because you and your frontbench are at the heart of the economic problems that befall our country today. It is not the plan that Australians want, and the chief culprits of that economic vandalism sit opposite. What they want is resolve. They want the economic recovery plan that is being delivered to Tasmania with a joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council and a major projects approval agency— (Time expired)