Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Coalition Government

2:40 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | Hansard source

What matters most to the people of Australia is policies and outcomes, and this government, this Liberal-National Party government, has delivered good policies and strong outcomes in spades. We as a government stand proud of a strong record of achievement, and we will continue to deliver on behalf of Australian families, on behalf of Australian households and on behalf of Australian businesses.

We already went through in question time—but I am happy to remind the Senate—the significant achievements of this government, particularly in terms of working through the debt and deficit legacy left to us by the Australian Labor Party, to the point where the budget comes back to balance in the next financial year. That's what people expect a good Liberal-National Party government to do, despite the obstruction and the opposition of those opposite, who at every single step of the way, when a budget savings measure was proposed, voted against it. They blocked it. They tried to be the wreckers and the destroyers in terms of repairing the budget. And, notwithstanding all that they did to block the efforts to repair the budget, we are in a position now where because of the good work of an economic team, Mr Morrison, Senator Cormann and Mr Turnbull, and the work, indeed, of Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey prior to that—because of that teamwork over that period of time—the budget comes back to balance, delivering what Australians think a good Liberal and National government should do. We have delivered on that.

Australians believe a good Liberal-National government should, of course, as well focus on jobs and growth, and 'jobs and growth' is not just a slogan we took to the last election; it is a reality, an outcome—some of the strongest economic growth in the developed world, strong economic growth that has actually delivered real benefits for Australians in terms of jobs growth that has overwhelmingly been jobs growth of full-time employment. As well as acknowledging our economic team, I pay tribute to Senator Cash for her work in terms of jobs growth around Australia, for her work as the minister for jobs and the minister for employment in ensuring that we have jobs growth that has helped more Australians enjoy the dignity of work and enjoy the opportunity to get ahead.

But, what's more, those Australians who have now got a job because of what our government has delivered are going to get to keep more of their hard-earned income. That's the critical reform from this government. Because we've managed the economy strongly, because we've achieved strong economic growth, because we've achieved strong jobs growth, we have been able to bring the budget back to balance and still afford to legislate the most far-ranging tax cuts that Australia has seen—tax relief that will affect and benefit all Australian hardworking households and will ensure that Australians, in terms of the income tax they pay, will no longer be forced and pushed into a higher income tax bracket. Bracket creep has been a disease that has afflicted the Australian workplace for too long, and the coalition government has passed legislation to address bracket creep in a significant way.

But guess what? What do the Australian people face when it comes to bracket creep if there were to be a change of government to those opposite? A return to bracket creep, because the Labor Party plan to roll back tax cuts. They plan to roll back the tax cuts that this government has legislated. In rolling back those tax cuts, bracket creep will be back on the deck for hardworking Australians. As Australians work hard, as they seek to get ahead and as hardworking Australians right around the country go out and perhaps work an extra shift or an extra day, do you know one of the reasons they can do that? It's because of our childcare reforms.

This is a virtuous cycle for Australians. We've created more jobs, we've created the environment where wages are growing faster and we've created the circumstance where people can afford to work an extra shift or an extra day. It's because they no longer have to pay so much in relation to childcare costs. Because of our tax relief, they're also going to get to keep more of their hard-earned income. All of that is at threat because of those opposite. Those opposite promise to roll back the tax cuts for Australian households. They promise to roll back tax cuts for small businesses. They, of course, voted against our childcare reforms.

It's not just the Australian economy that will be at risk. We know from past history that, of course, the Labor Party can't be trusted in relation to our national security interests either. In relation to our national security interests, the Labor Party will no doubt, once again, team up with the Australian Greens, and then we will see a weakening of our border protection policies. We've seen that happen before. We know the track record. Do we remember Mr Rudd standing there before the 2007 election, promising that, in terms of economic management, he would be a careful and prudent manager? And yet he blew the budget wide open. He blew the budget wide open, and it has taken five years of hard work and toil to bring it back to balance.

Mr Rudd also promised that, when it came to national security and particularly to border protection, he would keep all of the Howard government's policies. But what happened? Mr Rudd was found to be telling untruths. He lied to the Australian people before that election. Once elected, the Labor Party systematically went about doing what the Australian Greens wanted them to, which was to dismantle those border protection policies. That will happen again. It will happen again as clearly as day follows night. We know that those in the left wing of the Labor Party opposite—and, indeed, some in the right, such as Senator Keneally—want to dismantle the border security policies that have saved thousands and thousands of Australian lives. That will be a live topic when the Labor Party national convention happens. No doubt, that once again it will take backroom deals to stop embarrassing debate in relation to their reforms and their policies.

The Labor Party can come in here and they can seek to try to make this a debate about politics, but this coalition government will ensure that we continue to focus on the things that will matter to the Australian people in terms of good policies and good outcomes. Our careful economic management has delivered a strong economy, record jobs growth, the opportunity for wages growth and the conditions for us to deliver tax relief also allows us to invest in the essential services that Australians rely upon. Despite the lies we hear from those opposite, there is a record and growing level of investment in Australia's health care and in Australia's education system. We do it in a way that balances the budget and invests more in terms of the health and education for Australians. Despite the lies of those opposite—and we remember the Medicare scare campaign at the last election—we have record GP bulk-billing rates. We have some 86.1 per cent in relation to bulk-billing rates.

Perhaps more importantly, we have listed—or amended—some 1,700 medicines on the PBS. The PBS is particularly important in terms of essential services for Australians. It's important because it gives them access to groundbreaking new drugs at an affordable rate. Do you know what a consequence of the last Labor government was? That, as the budget spiralled out of control under Labor, one of the steps they took was to stop listing PBS medicines. They denied Australians the opportunity to access those cheap, groundbreaking new drugs to help with their health care. That's what we saw last time around, when it all went horribly wrong with those opposite. What we saw last time around was that the Australian Labor Party, in losing control of the budget, took panicked measures such as stripping Australians of the right to new drugs that should have been listed on the PBS. This government, this Liberal and National Party government, has ensured that, when recommendations are made through the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, they are acted on. They are acted on!

So what is at risk for Australians? What is a threat from those opposite? Jobs. From those opposite: higher taxes and weaker jobs growth. From those opposite: ultimately, our balanced budget will be destroyed. From those opposite: weaker border protection. We will ultimately see those opposite go down that track record again, whether it's the PBS or something else. But the next election, due next year, will no doubt be another occasion when we will also see the despicable lies of those opposite. We saw that in the last election campaign. Who could forget the way in which they rolled out the 'Mediscare' campaign. They took the Medicare logo and misused it. They took an approach of spreading lies and mistruths to scare vulnerable Australians, pensioners and others. That is what we saw from those opposite. We saw an approach in the last election campaign where they tried to win it based on scare tactics—scare tactics that were completely untrue, and scare tactics that were based on lies.


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