Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice
I ask the Treasurer if he could remind the House why it's vital for economic recovery that all states and territories stick to the national plan as agreed so that businesses and families can return to life after the COVID-19 pandemic. I ask him in addition: is he aware of any alternative policies?
I thank the member for Menzies for his question and acknowledge his incredibly strong contribution over so many years to his place and to his electorate of Menzies. He's somebody who's deeply committed to supporting his constituents through this very difficult time. He has supported policies that we have driven from this side of the House that will see, for example, more than 20,000 businesses in the electorate of Menzies being eligible for the extended immediate expensing provisions, supporting that economic recovery.
The member for Menzies and others on this side of the House understand that last year the Australian economy faced the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression. Treasury thought that the unemployment rate could hit as high as 15 per cent and that the economy could contract by as much as 20 per cent or more in the June quarter. We responded with overwhelming economic support. That has seen a very strong recovery in the back half of last year, with the strongest growth numbers in 50 years. We've seen the unemployment rate today come down to 4.6 per cent, the lowest in 12 years.
Yesterday, we had the June quarter national accounts: better than what the market was expecting, at 9.6 per cent through the year. What was particularly pleasing was that household consumption was up, off the back of our tax cuts and the easing of restrictions. We saw strong businesses investment. In fact, for machinery and equipment, it has been more than 20 per cent up since last October's budget, the fastest rate of growth in that category in nearly 20 years. Housing investment was up on the basis of very important programs like HomeBuilder that have helped create jobs in the construction industry.
We also know that the economy today, right now, faces real challenges, despite that strong economic rebound we saw in the back half of last year and the beginning of this year. There are real challenges, with our two largest states in lockdown. That's why we're responding with the COVID disaster payment—$750 for hours of work that have been lost—as well as business support packages with every state and territory. There are small business loans that have also helped to support small businesses through this difficult time.
We know that the pathway to Australia's recovery is not through higher taxes but through lower taxes. We have passed tax cuts, while those opposite continue to support higher taxes. They took to the last election $387 billion of higher taxes, and now they pretend that they support our stage 3 tax cuts. The reality is that, just like we're now seeing with JobKeeper, they're coming after small business. They're also coming after Australians with higher taxes.