Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Council of Australian Governments
I thank the opposition for an opportunity to speak today about exactly what it is that the coalition has been doing. They use COAG as a cover. COAG, as they well know, was scheduled to meet on 4 October. Negotiations by education ministers on bilateral school funding agreements are still underway. The health reform agreements and the Closing the Gap Refresh will benefit from further discussion between the portfolio ministers before they are brought to COAG. As those in opposition all know, these and other issues will be discussed at COAG on 12 December. That meeting in Adelaide on 12 December will continue to go ahead. It is a full-day meeting. The morning session provides an opportunity for all governments to consider the progress on a new national health reform agreement and the Closing the Gap Refresh as well as the National Summit on Reducing Violence against Women, and the afternoon session will be focused on national security. It's a rather disingenuous cover story for the opposition to try and give the coalition a bit of a bash but it is so unsuccessful.
Essentially we're seeing the opposition clutching at straws and saying, 'Don't look over here; look over there.' They want to cover up the fact that this government, in its five years in government, has been more successful than any Labor government ever. We announced 3.4 per cent growth last week. Those are the best growth figures we've had since the mining boom of 2012. In the life of this government, 1.1 million jobs have been created by the private sector. Of those 1.1 million jobs, the vast majority went to women. The vast majority were full-time. More than 100,000 jobs in the last 12 months alone went to the regions, and 44,000 jobs were created just in the last month. Female participation rates are at record levels. Youth employment is at its highest level since I was at school—and, I assure you, that was a considerable period of time ago.
Senator Wong interjecting—
I promise you, Senator Wong, it was not yesterday; it was a considerable period of time ago. Why have we got such good economic growth? Why has there been such good job creation in the last five years? I will tell you. It doesn't come by accident. This government has worked tirelessly to ensure that the policy settings are right to encourage investment, to encourage employment and to encourage higher wages. We have five free trade agreements with China, with South Korea, with Japan, the TPP and now with Indonesia. These free trade agreements give Australian businesses the opportunity to invest, to employ and to grow.
What about company tax cuts for small to medium enterprises? That is a fundamentally important incentive. And please don't forget for a second that we've provided tax cuts to individuals as well. The coalition is committed to ensuring that people keep more of their own money in their own pockets. The instant asset write-off is, again, another policy that encourages businesses to invest. In my state of Victoria alone, for instance, small businesses and farmers are benefitting from the coalition's instant asset write-off. It was used by almost 350,000 small businesses in 2016-17 alone, and is a policy that would not be possible without the coalition in office.
We've given tax cuts to 3.3 million businesses, and further tax relief has been legislated to reduce the tax rate from 27½ per cent to 25 per cent for businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million. That would have been extended to all businesses in Australia if it wasn't for those opposite, who do not want to see the economy grow, don't want to see companies expand, don't want to see further investment and don't want to see further employment.
In fact, this is the most anti-business, anti-investment, anti-employment, anti-jobs opposition we have seen since Whitlam. But don't let me disparage Whitlam. He at least was a man of principles, which is very different from the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, who is a man without principles. He is a man that stands for nothing. All he wants to do is sling mud. Well, dare I say, those opposite should know that, if they're going to sling mud, they should learn how to use a slingshot. Right now they are all over the place. Why don't we ask the opposition about their position on the TPP? If you want to see dysfunction, just look over there. (Time expired)