House debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Economy

2:23 pm

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer explain to the House how the Morrison government's strong and measured economic management is helping the Australian economy to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the new omicron variant? Is the Treasurer aware of any alternative approaches?

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Moore for his question. I acknowledge his experience as a counsellor and an accountant—and he's famous for his calendars in this place. As we approach Christmas it is appropriate to reflect on how far this country has come in the last two years.

Last March, consumer and business confidence fell to their lowest levels on record and we saw thousands of our fellow Australians, having lost their jobs, lining up outside Centrelink. Treasury were forecasting that unemployment could reach as high as 15 per cent. We responded with programs like JobKeeper, the cash flow boost, support for veterans and carers and pensioners and others on income support, and Australia, ahead of any other advanced economy in the world, saw its GDP higher than it had been going into the pandemic and its employment rate higher than it had been going into the pandemic.

Then we were hit by delta and our two largest states went into lockdown. We responded with around $20 billion of economic support. Now restrictions are easing and our economy is on the road to recovery. There are new variants like omicron, and we know that we are in a strong position to respond, with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and one of the strongest economies in the world. This is our track record. After the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression, unemployment today is lower than when Labor left office.

I'm asked whether there are any alternative approaches. We know this weak Labor leader does not have the courage to come clean with his policies to the Australian people. This weak Labor leader will not—

The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order?

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

It's not in order for the Treasurer to sledge members of the opposition. It's not a policy debate, it's just a personal sledge, and it is out of order.

Manager of Opposition Business, I'm happy to hear from you on a particular standing order if you want to take me to that.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll give you a few different ways, but you can start with direct relevance. There's nothing in the question that invites a character assessment. You've allowed both alternative policies and alternative approaches. What the Treasurer's doing now is neither. He's not referring to an alternative policy. He's just giving a character assessment sledge. He's not referring to an alternative approach. He's just giving a character assessment sledge. If we go down this path, question time continues to go downhill. In terms of the standards of the place, this is beyond what the question invites on direct relevance.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a bit rich, if I might say, for the Leader of the Opposition, who sits there sledging constantly all question time, to somehow, all of a sudden, be all virtuous. If he's got a glass jaw, he's got a glass jaw. The whole debate in this place, back and forth, is about a contest of ideas, and you sit there weak as water all day.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

On the point of order that was raised by the Leader of the House—

He was just responding to—

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

He was responding about a point of order. He said he was up for a debate. We're up for a debate: five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes—whatever you want, mate. Anyone on your side on any policy of your choice.

The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. One of the issues that the Jenkins report deals with is respect.

An honourable member interjecting

I'm not quite sure who found that so funny and laughed out loud then. As I said in my first speech as Speaker, I don't expect this place to be a monastical library, but the Australian public do not want to see this place descend into a political colosseum. There will be a lot of discussion over the next days and weeks about respect in this place. I would ask all members to show that level of respect in this chamber as well. I give the call to the Treasurer.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

With apology, there is a policy from the Leader of the Opposition, and that's for a national drivers licence. There is a policy from the Leader of the Opposition, and that is to waste $6 billion of taxpayers' money for people who have already had the jab to get a payment. The reality is that this weak Leader of the Opposition will not stand up to the shadow ministers in the Greens.

Has the Treasurer finished his answer?

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

No.

The Manager of Opposition Business?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

Under standing order 91, you made a ruling as to what the standard should be. The Treasurer has now gone back to the exact language he was using before you made that ruling.

I didn't rule on those words. I called upon all members to be respectful in this place, and I would ask the Treasurer to do the same.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The fact is that, if given half a chance on the treasury bench, this Leader of the Opposition will increase taxes on the Australian people, whether it's family businesses, whether it's superannuation, whether it's income taxes, whether it's franking credits and retirees or whether it's housing. We know that from their previous record, and we know that from the $387 billion of high taxes they took to the Australian people.