Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. Last night's budget unlocked transformational investments in ports, dams, roads and other infrastructure in our regions. Can the Prime Minister please outline to the House the importance of ports in generating wealth to grow the nation, and how our infrastructure investments will make Australia as strong as possible as quickly as possible? Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of alternative policies?
I thank the honourable member for Flynn for his question and note his service to this nation and service to this chamber in what he's done in basically standing behind the people of Gladstone and standing behind the people of Emerald and looking after the people of Biloela. This is a person who has been re-elected by his people four consecutive times. This is a person of vision, and that's what we need. He mentioned ports. Yes, this is incredibly important.
We are investing in ports, whether it's in Dampier, Port Hedland or Darwin, whether it's in Bundaberg or whether it's in Newcastle. We might start with Newcastle, because it's so vitally important. There is $25.1 billion worth of produce that goes out of the port of Newcastle—coal. It's a shame, because the people on the other side, tied up by the Greens, don't support the people of the Hunter Valley. The member for Shortland is obviously very close to the Greens. He's got an issue; he talks about transitioning people out of the coal industry—that's making them unemployed.
We talk about what we are doing in Port Hedland, where we have over $90 billion worth of produce, $90 billion worth of iron ore. This is how we pay for the standard of living of our nation. And we talk about the Port of Dampier, with over $40 billion worth of exports. This is so important. The port of Gladstone, where the member for Flynn comes from, has over $28 billion worth of exports, such as coal, alumina, aluminium, liquefied natural gas and agricultural goods. This is how we pay the bills. And we must make sure we invest where we make money.
The accelerator fund, which has been brought forward by this government, also has so much more to add to regional areas—regional areas such as Lithgow, regional areas such as Shepparton—to make sure that these places also share in the vision for our nation. The regionalisation fund is providing investment in regional infrastructure. There is the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, for strengthening advanced manufacturing. There is the Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative. There is the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, because supply chains for food, fibre and minerals all start in the regions. There is the Australian Apprenticeships initiative, the Trailblazer Universities Program and education infrastructure in regional Australia, the national Centre for Digital Agriculture, adoption and innovation hubs, the Recycling Modernisation Fund, the Export Market Development Grants Program, the capability improvement grant and the sovereign industrial capability priority grant.
I have heard people talk about what our vision is for weeks. We have laid down a vision for decades. We have laid down a vision to make our nation even stronger, quicker, as strong as possible. We have taken into account the changing circumstances of our globe, and we are making sure that we keep the Australian people safe. (Time expired)
My question is to the Treasurer. At 1 am this morning, the Deputy Prime Minister tweeted about the budget. He said:
What we see, this is not a movie, not a bad dream. This is the reality now.
This Budget is about saying where we make money we will make more, as much as we can.
Can the Treasurer explain what the Deputy Prime Minister means, and does he agree?
The Deputy Prime Minister was talking about our motivation for the investments in our regions in this budget, because only one side of politics will support regional Australia, and it's this side of politics. There has been $100 billion of investment in regional Australia since we have come to government, and last night's budget laid down another $21 billion of investment in our regions. There's been investment in infrastructure, whether it's water infrastructure like the Hells Gates Dam, which can help create more agriculture production that can be exported to the world, creating jobs here at home; whether it's our $1.3 billion telecommunications package to support regional Australia, to deal with black spots and build greater connectivity; or whether it's the work we did in terms of regional health to give more people in regional Australia access to MRI machines when they need it. And regional doctors: we are encouraging people to undertake training as a doctor and to work and live in our regions.
There's transport infrastructure, like Outback Way. And numerous other programs, like Tanami Road, have been designed to create jobs across the region. As the Deputy Prime Minister outlined, there's a $2 billion accelerator fund, with further investments in export market development grants, in our manufacturing initiative, in our modern recycling plan and in creating more apprentices across regional Australia. Then, of course, there's the $7.1 billion in four priority areas: across the Northern Territory at Middle Arm, in the Pilbara in Western Australia, in the Hunter in New South Wales and then unlocking the potential of the Burdekin in northern and Central Queensland. These are our policies to create the jobs of the future. They're in our budget. They're part of our vision for a stronger economy and a stronger Australia.
Government members interjecting—
Mr Speaker, I began by saying the question was to the Prime Minister. You interrupted and then called the—
Government members interjecting—
If it assists the House I'm happy to restate in full.
I thank the member for his question. On debt and deficit, I can tell him that we've just had the biggest rebound in a budget in 70 years, and I haven't seen a prime minister do that in a very long time in this place. Over the course of just the last 12 months we have had a $100 billion improvement in the budget over the forward estimates, which enables us to invest in the future, definitely, but also to provide cost-of-living relief here and now.
I hear those opposite talk about debt and deficit, and they ask, 'What have we got to show for it?' We've got 700,000 people still in jobs to show for it. We've got a Western Sydney airport that's being built, which the Leader of the Opposition, when he was transport minister for six years, couldn't get off the ground. He couldn't even get it off the ground, and here he is chipping away, chipping away. He spoke about it for 11 years in opposition, whining, whining, whining about the Western Sydney airport. He had six years to do something about it, and he didn't even dig a hole.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The investments and the economic interventions that this government made during the course of the pandemic saved the Australian economy. They kept 700,000 people in jobs. More than $40 billion of investment in our health response ensured we saved 40,000 lives, and on the global pandemic preparedness index Australia is rated second in the world. That's what it achieved—an achievement of the Australian people that has been barely matched anywhere around the world. We stepped up in the pandemic.
What we hear from the opposition, with these chips about these issues, is that they're for it and they're against it; they're against it and they're for it. We've even heard it from the shadow shadow Treasurer over there, who is today saying they're going to support the cost-of-living measures even though they don't support them. That's what we've heard from the Labor Party. It's classic Labor Party: they support things just as much as they oppose things. That's why, on Thursday night, I'll be listening out for the alternative budget but I don't think I'll get one. I'll be listening out for it for the alternative plan.
I understand. Our plan, the Australian people know, is set out in this budget. Our plan sets out investments in manufacturing, in energy, in dams, in roads and in lower taxes, ensuring we're supporting Australians to deal with cost-of-living pressures right now. (Time expired)
My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer explain to the House how the Morrison government's strong economic management in the face of numerous challenges shows that it is only the Coalition that can responsibly manage the budget and strengthen our nation's finances, and is the Treasurer aware of any alternative approaches?
RG (—) (): I thank the member for Wentworth for his question and acknowledge that he has been an outstanding diplomat for our nation and an outstanding member for Wentworth. It's important to understand that last night's budget demonstrated that the economy is growing—that growth is higher, unemployment is lower and wages are strengthening. When you consider how far our country has come over the last two years, it is remarkable. At the peak of the crisis, Treasury thought the unemployment rate could be as high as 15 per cent, and the Labor Party set us a task. In their words—in the member for Rankin's own words—the single biggest test for the Morrison government's management of the pandemic would be what happens to unemployment and jobs. That was the test the Labor Party set for us, and I can confirm to the House that the unemployment rate today in Australia is the equal lowest in 48 years, at four per cent. Female unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974. When those opposite came to government, the unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent, and when they left government it was 5.7 per cent.
As a result of a stronger economy, we are seeing revenue upgrades which we are banking to the bottom line, with an improvement of more than $100 billion to the bottom line, three-quarters of which has been driven by a stronger labour market. Unlike those opposite, we haven't baked into the budget commodity price assumptions at unrealistically high levels. That's what Labor did. We have kept commodity price consumptions at a conservative level, so that we didn't put expenditure across those commodity prices. We've seen the deficit, as a share of the economy, more than halve over the forward estimates, and then more than halve again by the end of the medium term. This is a responsible budget; there are temporary and targeted measures to ease cost of living and there are measures to improve the productivity and the growth of the economy and create more jobs, but there is also a significant and material improvement to the budget bottom line—the product of an economic plan that is working, that is seeing unemployment come down and seeing more people in work paying tax and less people on welfare requiring payments. That is a sign of a strong economy.