Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Matters of Public Importance


5:36 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to speak in response to the matter of public importance submitted to the Senate by our parliamentary colleague from the ACT Senator Gallagher. I am very pleased that Senator Gallagher has submitted this motion to the chamber because it gives me the chance to inform you of all the wonderful things that the Turnbull coalition government is delivering in taxation, budget repair and housing affordability. Senator Gallagher would like the chamber to consider:

The need for the Turnbull Government to provide economic leadership to make the tax system fairer, fix the budget in a fair way and address housing affordability.

I would be delighted to do so.

Senator Gallagher's motion has a number of parts, and I'd like to address each one of those in turn. Firstly, the senator brings up the alleged need for a fairer tax system. 'Fairer'—goodness me, that word comes up in this chamber an awful lot. I can hardly be the only one in here who is sick to death of the opportunism and insincerity coming out of Mr Shorten's Labor Party, centred on fairness and inequality. I apologise for my repetition, because repetition it is. It seems that, every time I rise to my feet, we are speaking on the same thing. I feel an enormous sense of deja vu when I once again call out this rhetoric for exactly what it is. It is a shroud for a radical redistributive agenda. As successive statistics repeatedly have proven, inequality is in fact falling in this country, not rising. Any claims to the contrary just don't stack up. Populist catchcries, however, are clearly on the rise.

The Australian Labor Party, under Mr Bill Shorten, is forgoing sensible economic policy for the base politics of envy and class warfare. History has condemned socialism for the economic nonsense that it is, yet Mr Shorten's Labor wishes to pursue it nonetheless. The Australian people, however, are smarter than that. Make no mistake: Labor's tax plan will freeze productivity, freeze economic growth, limit jobs growth and hold back wages growth. Mr Shorten should know better. As the recipient of a very high-quality Victorian education, one would imagine he would be well aware that a nation cannot tax its way to prosperity. Enterprise and hard work both need to be rewarded, not penalised, if we're to realise economic and wage growth for all Australians. It is indeed galling in the extreme that Senator Gallagher would blindly follow her leader into the empty rhetoric of redistribution and socialism. It is perhaps the case that voters in Ecuador might appreciate such political sensibilities but not here. Australians are smarter than that—so much smarter than that. Australians know that high taxes do not increase their wages. Labor's tax winter will penalise Australian families and whack small businesses. Quite simply, the worst thing that could happen for Australia's future economic prosperity is the election of a Shorten-led Labor government.

Senator Gallagher also called on this chamber to consider the need for the Turnbull government to fix the budget. The hypocrisy of those opposite on this issue is appalling. While in government, the Australian Labor Party were more than happy to rob future generations of Australians by running up enormous debt with unsustainable levels of expenditure. Now, in opposition, they block sensible measures to return the budget to surplus. Where the incoming Labor Party government under Rudd inherited a budget surplus from their predecessor, this government inherited baked-in spending and a structural deficit. It is patently ludicrous for any member of the Labor Party to attempt to use a matter of public importance to lecture the coalition on budget repair.

The Turnbull coalition government is acting to curb the insidious growth of federal government expenditure by passing the omnibus savings bills and providing substantial budget savings in the areas of education, social security and many more. While we can agree that more can be done and more must be done to finally return the budget to surplus and pay down the debt we inherited from the previous Labor government, we on the government side are doing everything within our power to do so while those opposite politically obfuscate to block measures that would have saved billions of dollars to the budget bottom line. How rich it is that Senator Gallagher and her colleagues would lecture those of us on this side of the chamber on the need to pay down debt. It is simply extraordinary.

Finally, Senator Gallagher has called on the government to address housing affordability. I'm not entirely sure where those opposite have been, because it gives me great pleasure to inform the chamber that much is being done by this government right now to address housing affordability. This is a government that recognises that housing affordability is a vital issue for many millions of Australians, and we are seeking to address it where we can, how we can and when we can. Very recently, crown land in the great city of Maribyrnong, Mr Bill Shorten's own seat, was released, which will enable the construction of thousands of new homes. Indeed, in the other place, in this very sitting period, we will see the introduction of two measures spoken about in the budget that will combat housing unaffordability. The government will pass the first home buyers super scheme, announced by the Treasurer on budget night, which will allow individuals to make voluntary contributions of up to $15,000 per year and $30,000 in total to their superannuation account to purchase a first home. These concessional contributions are taxed at only 15 per cent and can be withdrawn along with attributed earnings to make a deposit on a home. For most people this will boost the savings they can put towards a deposit by at least 30 per cent compared to savings in a regular savings account. Additionally, the government will pass a measure which will allow people aged 65 and over to make an exempt non-concessional superannuation contribution of up to $300,000 after selling their main residence of the last 10 years. This increased flexibility to contribute proceeds to superannuation will reduce barriers of older Australians to downsize homes that no longer meet their demands and, importantly, help free up housing stock for younger, growing families. This is a government that wants to do all it can to fairly—and I use that word without empty rhetoric—assist younger Australians to get into the houses they need.

It should be painfully apparent to those watching that the Turnbull government is providing the economic leadership in the fields of tax reform, budget repair and housing. (Time expired)


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