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

For us, it's about policies and outcomes. We have worked as a government to tackle difficult issues—difficult, challenging issues. People said that we'd never manage to legislate our income tax cuts, and we did. People said that we would never manage to legislate to reintroduce the ABCC or the Registered Organisations Commission, but we did. People said that we'd never legislate other key reforms the Labor Party and the Greens proposed—reforms in my portfolio area, such as child care—but we did. People said that we'd never manage to legislate to bring the budget back to balance, but we did, through perseverance and hard work. People said that fixing the GST problem was an intractable problem, yet it wasn't intractable, not at all. All it took was hard work from a dedicated team, who came up with a solution that was fair and reasonable to every Australian. I challenge everyone opposite from Western Australia to go back there and try to explain how it is that they never came up with a credible GST policy, yet this Liberal-National Party government did and is delivering it. And that is absolutely to the credit, in this place, of Senator Cormann, Senator Reynolds, Senator Brockman, Senator Smith and Senator Cash. Each and every one of them worked hard in a team to ensure that we delivered that reform.

We tackled other difficult issues, such as the question around same-sex marriage. People said that a plebiscite or a vote or giving Australians a say would never happen. It did happen. It did happen, and we saw a strong endorsement for change, and we saw this parliament then legislate that. Different people expressed their different opinions. That's what you expect on an important social reform like that. But this government provided the framework for that decision to be resolved and to ensure that it was resolved in a way to provide certainty for all Australians into the future.

When we go to an election next year, the Australian people have to make a choice about the next three years. And the choice that they will face is absolutely a choice between the Liberal and National parties, who have shown through our actions to date that we will back their interests. If Australians work hard, we will make sure they keep as much of their hard-earned money as they can. If they want to grow their business, we will make sure the circumstances are there to grow their business. If Australians want to ensure they can start a business, we've created small business tax policies that are more competitive than what those opposite have.

But it will be a choice. Every election is a choice, and I'm going to give the Labor Party one bit of credit. They have released policies for the next election: policies for more than $200 billion of higher and additional taxes. That choice will be whether Australians want to pay higher taxes on their wages. I look around the full public gallery today. I doubt there are terribly many people in the public gallery or elsewhere who want to be paying higher taxes on their take-home wages. The question will be whether Australian retirees want to see higher taxes on their hard-earned savings. Who'd have thought that Mr Shorten would come up with a tax policy that went after the savings of retirees? But there are retirees in the gallery today, and I'll bet they don't want to be paying higher taxes on their savings.

Of course, the Labor Party also has plans for higher taxes on Australian houses. People want to buy an investment property, get ahead and save a little bit for the future. The Labor Party still has a policy that will see higher taxes in relation to people doing that, and the result of that will be higher rents for many Australians and lower property prices—a devaluation of the major asset that many Australian households have.

Australian small businesses face the threat of higher taxes. So many Australians, more than 40 per cent of Australians, work in small businesses, and under the Labor Party they will be paying a higher tax rate in those small businesses than what has been legislated by this parliament, by this Liberal and National Party government. The result of that will be that those businesses have less money to invest, to grow, to create more jobs and to create higher wages.

Of course, in relation to electricity, this government has tackled again the difficult issue of electricity. Just this week, we have announced reforms that build upon the work we had already delivered as a government. We started out by making sure that we fixed issues around network transmission costs—no more gaming of the system by transmission networks and companies in terms of energy policy, but instead a clear, transparent system where they can't gold-plate infrastructure and slug people on their electricity bills for it.

We ensured, in relation to gas prices, that gas prices were brought down—again, something that many said couldn't be done. But this government made sure that it was clear to businesses who were doing the wrong thing by Australians that we would take whatever action was necessary to keep Australian gas here for Australian energy generation, to drive down Australian electricity prices.

We tackled the retail market and this week went even further in relation to the retail market. We have ensured that Australians will get, in terms of electricity bills, a fair default price. No longer will Australian pensioners find that, when they come out of an electricity contract, they have to go through the confusing or difficult choice of what electricity contract to go on. Instead, because of our policy change, pensioners will know and can have confidence that there will be a default price that is a fair and efficient price, and that they will not be able to be ripped off by those electricity companies. We can have confidence that they won't be ripped off by those electricity companies, because we've put strong penalties in place as well. We have said that, of course, what is required is a range of penalties, including the power to force divestment of assets if required—strong penalties to make sure there is clear action in that energy market. We have accepted and are acting on those ACCC recommendations, including ensuring that more generation capacity can be built.

So the choice for Australians could not be starker when it comes to next year's election: a choice between a low-taxing Liberal and National Party government and a high-taxing Labor government; a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where wages will be taxed at a lower rate and a Labor government where wages will be taxed at a higher rate; a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where small businesses will be taxed at a lower rate and a government where houses will be taxed at a higher rate; and a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where electricity bills will be lower and a Labor government where electricity bills will be higher. That is the choice that is on offer. People will not, in the end, risk their jobs, their wages, their homes, their retirement savings and the potential for lower electricity bills on that mob opposite. They will not risk our national security and the border protection of the country on that mob opposite. Because, in the end, Australians care not about the political stunt of this motion but about good policy and good outcomes. And the Liberal and National coalition government has delivered good policy and strong outcomes in spades, and hundreds of thousands—even millions—of Australians are better off as a result of our doing so.


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