Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I must have experienced a different estimates process over the two weeks, because what I witnessed and heard was ministers and their advisers working tirelessly day and night to achieve great economic outcomes for all Australians. The mover of the motion has asserted that the Prime Minister is only about flashy headlines. Let me list some of the responses which will deliver real action: the JobKeeper payment, supporting apprentices and trainees, income support for individuals, boosting cash flow for employers, the small and medium enterprises guarantee scheme, early release of superannuation, supporting pensions, HomeBuilder. Each one of these response initiatives has preserved jobs and set us up for an economic recovery, and yet there is more. I'm incredulous that the Labor Party would suggest that this government is not focused on jobs. It has been the word uttered the most by the Prime Minister, members of his cabinet and members on the government benches. What we don't hear from the other side of the chamber is that real jobs come from real businesses, and real businesses need the free flow of capital. They need access to capital—or debt, depending on how they want to run their business—and they need to have demand for cash flow. The measures which the Treasurer, in the other place, has instituted are designed for a targeted response to achieve this.
In the recovery program we have the JobMaker hiring credit, which will support around 450,000 young Australians into jobs. There's the JobTrainer Fund, providing up to an additional 340,700 places in courses to boost skills. There are the accelerated personal income tax cuts, benefiting over 11 million Australians. To support business investment there are temporary tax incentives, which are available to over 99 per cent of businesses. Of course, as we all know, there is the incredible infrastructure stimulus. All of this generates demand and provides a flow of trained Australians to join businesses to meet that demand. I'm a little unsure of what the honourable senator who moved the motion was suggesting in talking about active market programs. I would suspect that they're more of the Soviet style, which is intervention and the government choosing winners. You simply cannot do this. You cannot generate economic growth without allowing a free flow of credit and allowing individuals to pursue their own endeavours and dreams.
I also find it difficult to take that the government was criticised for not providing certainty. Everything in the budget was designed to give businesses in Australia some ability to plan and to design how they wish to navigate the way ahead. There will be challenges going forward. There may well be a second wave. But the government cannot be criticised, for it will need to remain nimble and attentive, and its measures will be adjusted as and when required.
The honourable senator who moved the motion asserted the excessive use of consultants. In the estimates hearings that I attended it was said time and time again by senior members of the Public Service that they had used consultants, particularly in their approach to COVID, to bring into the Public Service the skills they otherwise wouldn't have had and to allow them to respond quickly and effectively. So I don't think that the point is well made by the mover of the motion. I don't intend to address the issues of the national integrity commission because I don't believe they are entirely relevant to the assertions that are made in this motion, and that will be debated at another time, and nor are the allegations of rorting, which my party vigorously denies, of various community programs.
The government does have a significant, comprehensive job plan. It was the fundamental basis and foundation of the budget. We accept the fact that the economy has been under stress because of COVID, but honourable senators should turn their minds to the fact that in some of the states, particularly Victoria, it has been the decision of state premiers and their cabinets or their particular arrangements to deal with the emergency that have restricted the free movement of people and the operations of businesses. Whilst the Commonwealth has encouraged those communities to seek to free up when it is safe to do so, the blame for business restrictions cannot be put at the feet of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has rightly respected the states, as it must, and sought to provide financial arrangements to assist the businesses where it is able.
I particularly wish to address the supporting measures for the flow of credit. Small businesses and small-to-medium enterprises need access to credit; otherwise they cannot create their businesses and run their businesses or, at the same time, meet the aspirations of themselves and their families. The government has a series of measures which assist in the flow of credit, and these are the SME guarantee scheme, the RBA Term Funding Facility, the Australian Business Growth Fund and the Structured Finance Support Fund. A small business, when it's under stress or when it's starting out, needs capital to grow depending on the nature of its capital requirements and what market segment it is in. So, while the government in its other initiatives has stimulated demand and confidence and a sense of surety in the community from an economic perspective, likewise there must be a free flow of credit. If banks do not lend or other alternative lending institutions are unable to provide debt then the businesses will not be able to run, for they will not be able to underwrite their cash flows or invest in those things they need for their business. You need cash flow before you can make tax deductions.
The government's small and medium enterprises guarantee scheme supports up to $40 billion of lending by guaranteeing 50 per cent of eligible new loans issued by participating lenders to small and medium enterprises. It has two phases. The Reserve Bank of Australia's Term Funding Facility is providing up to $200 billion in low-cost funding to the banking system to support the flow of credit and lower interest rates for households and business. The government's $15 billion Structured Finance Support Fund is making targeted investments through the securitisation market to support funding of smaller lenders. The government and a number of banks have also established the Australian Business Growth Fund. Whilst these are not necessarily considered glamourous by many members in this chamber, as someone who has come from the business community I know they will underpin, to a very large extent, our economic future.
I might just finish off by saying South Australia has fared well under its Liberal leadership. A projected 790,000 taxpayers in South Australia will receive tax relief in the budget. It commits an additional $625.2 million over the next decade to land transport infrastructure projects. The mood on the ground in South Australia is good. The South Australians that I speak to are thankful for the support that the Commonwealth government has provided them. I'd ask honourable senators to take heed of the fact that federal governments cannot themselves employ every Australian. They have to create an environment where people can pursue their own individual dreams and, from those dreams, found, start and run businesses, and those businesses will employ people. That is an economic reality. Whilst the stimulus has assisted the businesses in existence to survive, the new response measures will allow them, going forward, to thrive.