House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Private Members' Business

Economy

5:49 pm

Photo of Cathy O'TooleCathy O'Toole (Herbert, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This motion speaks to how completely out of touch the LNP government really are. They try to brag that things are going well—that the economy is going well and that jobs are on the increase—but what is actually happening is the numbers are being skewed. The only things to rise under this out-of-touch LNP government besides the degrees in climate and the tempers of everyday Australians are the unemployment figures. Does this LNP government even know how regional Queenslanders are struggling under their government? Does the LNP Prime Minister know the detrimental impact he caused when he was Treasurer by making massive cuts to various sectors across regional Queensland?

Those opposite try to skew numbers. They have put a new face on their leader, thinking that everyday Australians will forget what those opposite have done. But we won't forget, when the architect for the job losses and cuts is now the Prime Minister. The LNP's economic plan is very good for Sydney and Melbourne but not for regional, rural, and remote Queensland. The LNP's planned tax cuts for banks and big business weren't for Townsville; they were for their banking mates. The majority of Townsville businesses are not big businesses. While the Sydney and Melbourne economies are growing, Townsville's local economy has been demolished under consecutive LNP governments.

The government does like to recite numbers, so allow me to recite a few for you—factual numbers. They are: 5.6 per cent—that was Townsville's unemployment rate when Labor left office; 9.7 per cent—that is Townsville's current unemployment rate, and unemployment in Townsville has almost doubled under the LNP; 3,000—that is how many manufacturing jobs have been lost in Townsville since the LNP was elected; 149—that is the number of Australian tax office jobs that have been lost under the LNP government; 50—that is the number of defence jobs cut; 19—that is the number of CSIRO jobs cut in Townsville under the LNP; 46 per cent—that is how many trainees and apprentices we have lost in Townsville, which equates to 1,557 people, all because consecutive LNP governments have cut $3 billion from the TAFE sector; 2,487—that is how many families in Herbert will be worse off under the LNP changes to child care; $2,000—that is how much extra an average family will have to pay under the LNP's early learning charges; seven per cent—that is the percentage of north Queenslanders, who, due to the LNP government's Medicare freeze and the high cost of accessing medical services, have stopped accessing care when needed in the last year; $142—that is the median out-of-pocket cost for a north Queenslander; 26 per cent or 6,475 people or 55 people a day—that is the number of people over the last six months who presented to the Townsville hospital with minor ailments like coughs, because they can't afford to see their GP because of the LNP's Medicare freeze; 12 doctors and 25 nurses—that is how many jobs will be lost at the Townsville hospital because of the LNP government's $9 million cut; $36 million—that is the amount this government is cutting to Central Queensland University; 14—that's the number of jobs lost because James Cook University was forced to cut their arts degree because of the LNP's $34 million cut to JCU; 442—that is how many fewer construction businesses there are in Townsville than when Labor left office, a drop of 15.7 per cent; 153—that is the number of retail businesses that have closed in Townsville under the LNP, a fall of 17 per cent; seven—that is the number of jobs lost on Palm Island because of this government's cut to the National Partnership on Remote Housing; zero—that is how much the LNP have delivered for energy infrastructure for Townsville.

These are the numbers the LNP government needs to be working on, because it is the government that has caused these disturbing numbers. Townsville is not getting its fair share under this LNP government. Here are a few more numbers: $100 million—that is Labor's commitment to deliver long-term water security for Townsville, which has been matched and water security will be delivered, and the government came to the table 552 days after Labor; $200 million—that is Labor's commitment to deliver energy infrastructure; $23.5 million—that is Labor's commitment to Townsville schools; $1.7 billion—that is Labor's commitment to early learning. One last number that I will leave you with is the 18th of the fifth—the last day an election can be held in regional Queensland, where we can vote out of a government that forgets us and vote for a Labor government that will remember us.

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The coalition government has delivered a strong growing economy, which is delivering dividends for the whole nation. We have been able to give tax relief to hardworking Australians so they're rewarded for their hard work. We have been backing small business so they can create jobs. The government set the atmosphere for the economy to thrive, and we've certainly done that. We are fixing the budget. We're bringing it back into surplus this calendar year. All the time we've been reducing taxes and growing the economy—we've been growing the pie that delivers the tax revenue—the tax rates have been lower for individuals and companies.

We've been putting more money into keeping Australians safe. We've been protecting our borders and ramping up the financial support for Federal Police, for ASIO, for the security agencies and for our Defence forces. Our economy is growing at a better rate than most of the G7 countries—2.8 per cent GDP growth. That's an amazing record.

We have in our time in government developed free trade agreements with China, Korea, Japan and Chile. We've recently added wine agreements with the UK, giving the turmoil that they're going through, so our wine can still keep going there. In the last year alone, we've created over 100,000 jobs for young people. That's part of a broader jobs growth since 2013 of 1.2 million. That is an amazing growth record.

Health spending and school spending have both increased. The number of people relying on income support amongst working-age people is at the lowest level in at least 20 years—14.3 per cent of those of working age are requiring income support. That means the best form of welfare is to get people into a job. Not only is it financially better, but it's better for your mood, your psyche, your family, your relationship and your personal pride, and it is a great role model for your children.

We've also, as I mentioned, given tax relief for hardworking families. We have reduced tax for 3.3 million people and we have also reduced taxes for small business. Small businesses employ seven million people, Mr Deputy Speaker—knowing your background, I know you appreciate the value of small business. Whilst we've been reducing the spending and reducing the deficit so we can be in surplus this year, we have $75 billion worth of infrastructure being rolled out.

We've been supporting people in droughts. With the recent flood disaster in north-west Queensland, we've been supporting them. And what is at risk? The other side—the Labor Party, the Greens, and the Independents—want to go on a tax-a-thon. They want to get rid of the tax cuts we've given small business and families. They want to increase taxes by putting in a budget repair levy again of $7 billion. They want to tax your houses, which will reduce in value if they get rid of negative gearing. Even the threat of them coming in, with the population flirting with the idea of having a Labor government, has sent investment in property into quite a serious correction.

New taxes and negative gearing are also going to affect people's superannuation funds. Not only the new four taxes on superannuation that they have outlined, whether it's a contributions tax rate or limiting the catch-up for women who have been out of the super contribution scheme; it's going to affect many people with an existing self-funded superannuation fund. The retiree tax defies common sense, fairness and just about anything you can consider economically cannot justify what they are proposing. I have more pensioners and self-funded retirees than just about any other electorate, and they want to double-tax their investments. It's a bit like proposing that a PAYG earner receives their pay and then has to pay tax on it again. We have no double taxation like the Labor Party. They want to tax people who have taken the responsibility of looking after themselves, and it's manifestly unfair and bad for the economy.

5:59 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm going to be honest with you, Deputy Speaker McVeigh, when I saw the motion on the Notice Paper I thought it must have been a joke.

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's not April first yet!

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, not 1 April yet! I actually got one of my staff to make sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. I did actually check, Member for Fremantle, that it wasn't April Fools' Day. Again, I have to be honest, I think those opposite are pretty delusional moving a motion that pats themselves on the back for what they've done over the last few years instead of, from my point of view—that of the Northern Territory—listening to the challenges we face in the Northern Territory.

They spent their time pandering to the bankers—with a B—on the east coast. Instead of having a real plan to grow the Northern Territory, their central economic platform was to give a handout to the big four of $17 billion. That could do a lot of good in the Northern Territory and around Australia if there were a federal government with different priorities. But in this protection racket for the banks, where they voted 26 times against a banking royal commission whilst trying to give the banks a $17 billion hand out and cosy up to the big four banks, they were ripping millions of dollars out of the territory at the same time. It is shameful.

Just for the record, they ripped $41 million of funds that were supposed to be going into public schools in the Northern Territory. That was ripped. They ripped $15 million out of Charles Darwin University, CDU, our university in the northern capital of Australia that also provides education services by outreach into other areas of the Northern Territory. And they ripped $16 million out of hospitals in the Northern Territory, with some of the poorest health outcomes in our country. This is what they call 'good economic management': try to give money to the banks at the top end of town and rip money out of the Territory, with communities with the lowest socioeconomic factors, the worst health outcomes and the worst education outcomes in the country due to all of those challenges we face. They weren't prioritised. The banks were prioritised. This is their genius economic plan.

But then, when they did come to Darwin, when they came to the northern capital of Australia pledging funds, it took over 500 days for the promise of the city deal to be realised. Not because the Prime Minister—the third Prime Minister in this term—wanted to, but because the Japanese Prime Minister came to Darwin to see off the first gas shipment in the INPEX project. They thought, 'Well, we better go up there and announce something.' But have we seen one dollar of those city deal funds, with $100 million that's supposed to help Charles Darwin University establish in the city like has happened in other jurisdictions? No, not one dollar. And we've barely seen any of the $20 billion pledged for defence expenditure. That was promised at the last election, so that's coming up, what, 2½ years? Very little spent on defence infrastructure. The funds haven't even been given to us for the city deal.

What else is on the list of the government's economic brilliance? Giving working people less money in their pay packet. Cutting penalty rates to 700,000 hardworking Australians. That's not helpful. Mind you, they wanted to give $17 billion to the banks, hoping that that would trickle down. That's not good for the economy. Those opposite have cut $300 million from dental health funding and frozen the Medicare rebate, forcing Australians to pay more to see the doctor. Young people struggle to enter the housing market. Instead of taking real action there, those opposite essentially just flipped the bird to young Australians and told them to go and get rich parents! You can see a pattern here. (Time expired)

6:04 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To pick up where the last speaker left off, you can see a pattern here. You can see a pattern in Labor speakers on this motion. They have no choice but to go by the farce of their speaking lines: that there has been some sort of cut. Isn't it hilarious, after so many years in opposition, that they continue to pick out fictitious numbers and try to talk about a cut. You know, this was mentioned in my electorate only three weeks ago with respect to health. So I looked at the statistics. Since the coalition has been in power, funding to health has actually doubled. Doubled!

Do you know why Labor carry on like this? They run the 'gonna' principle.

Mr Gosling interjecting

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Solomon should learn this gonna principle because it's his party's principle: 'We were gonna do more. We were gonna do this. We were gonna give more to health. We were gonna do more for education.' Despite the fact that today there is record spending in health, there is record spending on education and there is an unprecedented recapitalisation of our defence forces, they're gonna do more, Deputy Speaker! Their entire argument is the gonna principle.

But there's a difference, you see. The difference between our side and their side is that we know how to manage money. Those opposite do not. If I have to pay tribute to those who are speaking from Labor on this motion today, it is that they've had the courage to at least try to put up an argument. Many of their colleagues are hiding in their suites because they don't want to talk on a motion about economic management. It is clearly the weak spot—or one of two weak spots; we also know about national security and protecting our borders. This motion is about the economy. We know that, when it comes to managing money, Labor are weak—that's their track record; it's sad because the losers are the Australian people—whereas the Liberal-National coalition's track record is strong. It is strength versus weakness.

We know that we have enjoyed 27 years of consecutive economic growth. We know that the unemployment rate is at five per cent. We know that the Australian GDP is growing at a rate faster than the OECD average, faster than all of the G7 bar the United States. Now, there's a reason that we celebrate good economic outcomes, and the Prime Minister articulates this well—that is, the economy isn't the end game. Having a good strong economy is not the end game; it is the means.

A strong economy is the means by which we can recapitalise the Australian Defence Force—$200 billion. A strong economy is the means by which we can ensure that we have record numbers of jobs created under this government. The economy is the means by which we can have families putting food on the table and we can have families educating their children. A strong economy is the means by which our people prosper. A strong economy is the means by which the everyday Australian household can pay the bills and can have a fulfilled life. That is why the economy is so fundamentally important.

And yet we see Labor government after Labor government ruin the economy, and when they do they also ruin the end game. They compromise the ability of people to feed their families and to find their jobs. They compromise the ability for us to afford health care and for us to afford the necessary services. That is why everything comes back to the economy.

It is why the Liberal-National government will always stand firm on the economy. When we do, we unashamedly take the high moral ground because we know that the most vulnerable people in this country can be best served only when the government is able to serve them. And only when you have money in the bank, only when you're making a surplus—which we will be delivering next year—are you best able to deliver on that. Meanwhile, we will continue to hear the gonna arguments from the Labor Party—what they're gonna do, what they would do. We all know it's false. Look at their track record.

6:09 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's nothing more delicious than a pregnant pause before one speaks, to make sure that everybody is paying full attention, and there's no-one, of course, whom we want to pay more attention than those in the opposition. Why? It's because, unfortunately, we have a perpetual problem where they won't recognise or understand basic truths about what this government is seeking to achieve, what it is delivering for the Australian people and how we are putting Australia in the best competitive position to fruitfully deliver for the people that we are elected to represent and serve.

Yes, all right; we know the economy continues to grow strongly and that that bucks against the trend of so many other advanced and developed countries around the world. We can't be complacent about that. Yes, we have some of the fastest economic growth in the OECD and across the world and, of course, we're in the 27th year of uninterrupted economic growth. Why? It's because we understand the foundations of where an economy comes from—primary industries and extractive industries that build up the capital base that supports manufacturing and value-adds to our goods and then helps to build the service based economy to export to the world. We are part of the global supply chain. We are competitive and we should be enormously proud of it.

We should be enormously proud that we're now at a full employment rate, as we used to say in the old economic terms, where if you want to get a job in Australia you should be able to get a job in Australia. There are opportunities, whether it's part-time or full-time work. A record number of women have been able to secure employment—record-breaking full-time employment but also flexible workplace arrangement where people get the support they need to manage the different challenges they face in their stage of life.

I always have this real struggle with people who say, 'It's not real employment unless it's full-time employment.' Well, talk to those who are seeking to retire and graduating their way out of the workforce but still want to participate. Speak to the mums and the dads who might take on maternal or paternal leave who want to be able to work part time to support their families while also being engaged in the workforce because they don't want to lose their skills or opportunities. Speak to the people who are consultants who work as part of small businesses that want to transact across the world. Full-time work is a wonderful thing if you seek it, and it's the basis on which many people can build a successful life, but do not dismiss part-time work either because it may very well be what people want and seek to balance out work-life pressures. We always talk rhetorically about work-life balance, but when people actually deliver it apparently it's a bad thing.

And, of course, we want the government to continue to work constructively with all parts of the economy to be able to deliver the economy that the Australian people need. But nothing will deliver that more than tax reform. This is one of my pet subjects. I yearn for it when I wake up in the morning and I think about it the last thing at night. I know I get a wry smile for that! I'm saying it because it's tragic but true! Tax reform is absolutely essential for this country's future prosperity and opportunity. We have to radically reform the tax system. I have said this many times—from my first speech to today. Tax reform is the basis on which we can make sure that we can deliver the economy that Australians need to drive the economic opportunity that we seek. If we rebase the tax system, we'll see multinationals no longer able to avoid tax and contributing their fair share of tax. We have done what we can to close the loopholes, but we can go further. A rebasing of the tax system will create the opportunity where people can invest in job creation, not tax avoidance. The people who might lose their jobs are those accountants and lawyers who spend all their time fiddling around with taxes and taking advantage for themselves and for other people to minimise their tax. Sorry, but I want that wealth to go to productive sectors. I really, really do, because I see the potential and the opportunity that sits at the heart of it.

I know the opposition is mocking me for my passion on this, but it is unrelenting and it will not relent. It is the great political challenge of my parliamentary career for so long as it goes on. That's why I won't back down. It will deliver jobs that Australians need. It will drive economic growth when people pay the tax that this country needs to support the social and human services that people want as the dividend from the economy. An economy is not the end; it is the beginning of the proud, more successful and more united nation that we can be, one where the economy delivers for people so they can stand on their own two feet and make their maximum contribution to their own lives in the world.

Debate adjourned.