Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry, Senator Reynolds. When asked in an interview on Sky News whether she agreed that flexibility in wages and keeping wages at a relatively modest level is a deliberate feature of Australia's economic architecture to help drive employment growth, the minister said:
No, I don't believe—absolutely not … to even suggest that, I think, shows a fundamental lack of understanding about economics.
Does the minister stand by her statement?
Thank you very much for my first question—and you certainly haven't let us down by the nature of the question! I absolutely stand by what I said and I stand by this government's record on creating jobs. There are no more jobs in this country being created today than there are in defence industry. When you have a look at the contrast, there is nothing starker than your record of jobs in defence industry.
I absolutely stand by what I said. I stand by what the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has said on this issue. On this side of the chamber, we know the only way to lift wages is through a stronger economy that is built on more jobs and lower taxes, which is exactly what we on this side of the chamber have been working on for the last six years. You will see the benefit of that to the nation in the delivery of the budget tonight. But it wasn't just my statement and what Minister Cormann said; it has also been many other people in the Australian community. For example, in The Australian, Ewin Hannan reported AiG as saying:
There is no point in having an independent tribunal to determine wages and working conditions if parliament is going to dictate what decisions the tribunal must make or is going to impose unbalanced criteria to ensure that the tribunal's decisions favour one party over another …
AiG also said Labor's policy would have 'perverse impacts on the Australian labour market and it overlooks the significant increases to the national minimum wage in recent years'. So I absolutely stand by what I said. Of course I stand by it.
Again, we know the only way to increase wages is by increasing the economy and increasing jobs—1.25 million jobs have already been created on this side of the chamber, and that is in stark contrast to the record of those opposite, and nowhere more so than in my portfolio— (Time expired)
Given the minister was responding to a statement made by the minister for finance and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, has the minister informed Senator Cormann that he has 'a fundamental lack of understanding about economics'?
I thank the senator for the supplementary question. I've got to say, of all of the questions I could have been asked on this portfolio as now a very proud Minister for Defence Industry, it is a shame, but I'm not surprised, that you did not ask my first question on the jobs and the wages of those in the defence industry. Again, I stand by what I said—
I think the minister finally got to the question, which was about her comments about the living wage in response to Senator Cormann's comments. As I understand, she was addressing the question as I got to my feet.
Senator Wong had the advantage of hearing Senator Reynolds. I'm finding it very difficult because the bully boys from the union, like Senator Cameron, are constantly shouting at a female minister and I cannot hear her.
On the point of order, this senator is one of the last people in this place, ever, who should be talking about bullying. I refer to Senator Macdonald, the second—
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
Are you finished yelling? Because I'm on my feet and I have a point of order to make. Thank you. This minister is being asked questions about, frankly, a ridiculous statement she made about a government minister and we are entitled to ask that question of this minister. That is why she has been asked.
Order! Senator Wong, that's not a point of order. Senator Wong, please resume your seat. Senator Macdonald, on the point of order, there is no point of order, as Senator Wong admitted at the end of her first point of order. Senator Reynolds was turning to the question. On the issue of noise, it's disappointing that after this period of time people get into it this quickly. It is very difficult to hear Senator Reynolds, although she is blessed with a very strong voice. I would ask that senators allow both the questioner and the person answering the question to be heard in relative silence. Senator Reynolds to continue.
Thank you very much, Mr President. As I was saying, those on the other side really don't understand what lifts wages, and that is jobs. This government has, for the last six years, been working towards and has created over 1.25 million jobs. The only way to lift wages is a stronger economy built on more jobs and lower taxes, which is what those on this side have done diligently for six years. The benefits of that will be very clear tonight not only on over 1 million jobs but also on the wages of those Australians employed.
Thank you, Mr President. Moments after ridiculing Senator Cormann's statement, as demonstrating 'a fundamental lack of understanding about economics', Minister Reynolds declared that Senator Cormann was 'absolutely right'. What new facts came to light in those moments to cause such a dramatic turnaround?
Senator O'Neill, all I can say is I fully agree with Senator Cormann. All of us on this side of the chamber do. We know the only way to increase wages is through a bigger economy, a stronger economy and more jobs. We've demonstrated that through 1.25 million jobs and, again, we're now on track and we're bringing the policies in in this budget to continue another 1 million jobs. We, on this side of the chamber, clearly get it. You need a low-tax government—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
I absolutely stand by what I said about what causes wage increase. I absolutely stand by that. You've asked me the same question three times and the answer is the same every single time. But let's have a look at the opposition. If you want to talk about wage increases, I'd be very happy to compare and contrast 1.25 million jobs we have created on this side. What has the Leader of the Opposition done to jobs?