Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Given that 52 out of 55 of the government's wages forecasts have been wrong and real wages will go backwards at an even higher rate this year than the last budget anticipated, why should the Australian people believe anything the Prime Minister promises on wages, especially on the eve of an election?
I'll tell you what won't increase wages, and that is $387 billion of higher taxes, which was Labor's policy going into the last election. In last year's budget, when we made a wages forecast, it actually came in at half a percentage point higher than we had forecast. And, as the Prime Minister has outlined, in the budget year and beyond, we have forecast the wages price index being above inflation. What we know is that the way to drive higher wages is to drive down the unemployment rate.
When Labor came to government the unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent. When Labor left office the unemployment rate was 5.7 per cent. And I can confirm to the House that the unemployment rate today is at its equal lowest in 48 years, at four per cent, and that female unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974. And in the budget last night we printed a number for the unemployment rate to have a 3 in front of it for the first time in 50 years. That belongs to 26 million Australians. Unlike those opposite: when they were presiding over the recessions in the 1980s and the 1990s, the unemployment rate remained elevated for some 10 years. This time around, it's taken just over a year to get the unemployment rate back—
The reality is that the best way to drive down unemployment is to invest in the programs that we announced in last night's budget. With a lower unemployment rate, you see upward pressure on wages. Through this crisis we have done everything we possibly can to help save jobs and to help put Australians into new jobs, and today there are 375,000 more Australians in work than there were at the start of the pandemic. That is something that belongs to all Australians, and it's the pathway to higher wages.
ARCHER () (): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer explain to the House how the Morrison government is providing significant assistance to help Australian families with the cost of living while also ensuring that our economic recovery continues to strengthen?
I thank the member for Bass for her question and acknowledge her deep experience coming into this place—as a farmer, as a local mayor—and her commitment to her local community. She knows that in last night's budget the numbers demonstrated that growth is higher, unemployment is lower and wages are strengthening and that our economic plan is working, with an unemployment rate today at its equal lowest in 48 years and with an economic recovery that is leading the world—faster and stronger than the United States—
The Treasurer will resume his seat for one moment. I've repeatedly pulled members up—and I think that was the member for Whitlam, but I'm not entirely sure; I'll give him the benefit of the doubt—but did the member for Whitlam use an unparliamentary remark? Certainly I'd ask the member for Whitlam to withdraw. Don't say what it was; just withdraw.
Not only did no-one hear him but no-one listens to him. The reality is that Australia's economic recovery has been one of the strongest anywhere in the world, faster and stronger than the United States and the United Kingdom, then Canada, then France, then Italy and Japan.
In last night's budget we announced a $8.6 billion package of measures to ease the cost-of-living pressures on Australian families, recognising that cost-of-living pressure is the No. 1 topic around the kitchen tables of the country. Cutting the fuel exercise in half will see a family with two cars that fill up once a week up to $30 dollars a week better off and $700 better off over a six-month period. A $420 bonus to the LMITO, low- and middle-income tax offset, will support more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners, which means if you are on $60,000, $70,000 or $80,000, on 1 July and after that when you put in a tax return, you will see $1,500 in your bank account as a result of tax relief provided by this government. Also in the budget was a $250 payment to six million people on income support—veterans, pensioners, carers, people on the disability support pension and concession cardholders, including self-funded retirees. Six million Australians will get that $250 payment, for many in addition to the indexation arrangements, which are also providing cost-of-living relief. Also in this budget was a measure to reduce the cost of medicines to make them more accessible to 2.4 million Australians. So the measures we announced last night were responsible, they were targeted, they were temporary and they were designed to provide cost-of-living relief for Australians who need it most.
I know what the member opposite is referring to. If you will come with me, Mr Speaker, to page 49 of budget paper No. 2—it has a number 2 on it, in case you are not familiar with it—it refers to the decisions taken but not yet announced. What the member opposite doesn't understand—I am giving a lesson in budgets for dummies over there—
Sorry, I withdraw. I was referring to what should be a popular publication for those opposite, because this Leader of the Opposition has never delivered a budget and that shadow Treasurer has never delivered a budget. He was involved—
It is very simple. The line item there shows the change from last year's midyear budget update of decisions taken but not yet announced, not-for-publication measures. What that means is, when that number goes into the negative, other numbers have gone into the positive. It comes out of that column and it goes into another column—genius! It goes down in one and it goes up in the other column. That is how a budget works.
Those opposite don't know how to put a budget together. They have no idea. I would suggest the shadow Treasurer does not phone a friend either, if ever he ever becomes Treasurer, because his best mate on putting the budgets together was Wayne Swan. We all know what Wayne Swan did when he was putting budgets together. He assumed iron ore prices at $180 forever. He had mining taxes that didn't raise any money.
Of those opposite who would be responsible for the economic management of this country, there's a Leader of the Opposition who's never delivered a budget. He spent six weeks on the Expenditure Review Committee and never delivered a budget. The shadow Treasurer has also never delivered a budget. On this side, our Treasurer has delivered four budgets. Our Prime Minister has delivered three budgets as a Treasurer, four budgets as a Prime Minister and one budget as a member of the Expenditure Review Committee. That's eight. I'll put my eight budgets up to your zero every single time, because zero is the amount of policy we've seen from those opposite. We often speak of net zero in this place. The Labor Party is net zero on policy.
Honourable members inter jecting—
The member for McEwen is warned. The level of interjections is ridiculously high, and it's coming from both sides of the chamber today. It's all that pent-up silence from last night, obviously. I remind members that, for instance, if you're going to make a point of order on relevance and no-one can hear what's being said, I wouldn't even bother rising to the dispatch box.