Monday, 9 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The coalition has now been in office for more than six years. Can the minister confirm that, under Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, Australia is experiencing the slowest rate of annual economic growth since the global financial crisis?
What I can confirm for Senator Wong is that the Australian economy continues to grow. We are in our 28th year of continuous growth. Where other major trading economies around the world, like Germany and the United Kingdom, went backwards in the June quarter, we continued to grow. Do you know what else I can confirm for Senator Wong? It is that if there had been a change of government in May, right now the economy would be weaker on the back of $387 billion in higher taxes from the Labor Party.
I confirm again that the Australian economy is in a stronger position as a result of our plan to build a stronger, more resilient, more successful economy than what would have been the case under the alternative. I know that in the Labor Party they're having this massive debate on whether they can blame it all on Mr Shorten or whether they actually have to reflect on what socialist policies they took to the last election.
but he is the finance minister. The question goes to the slow economic growth over which he has presided. Who was Leader of the Opposition last term is not relevant to the question asked.
I seek your ruling on how it is possible that the question—and, I repeat, can the minister confirm that, under Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, Australia is experiencing the slowest rate of annual economic growth since the GFC—have as directly relevant the alternative policies of the opposition. How is that possibly relevant?
Honourable senators interjecting—
I'll just wait so I can talk. On the point of order, the minister is entitled to talk about economic growth. In my view, that is directly relevant to the question. However, any material that is additional to a specific answer must also be directly relevant to the question. So, to that extent, Minister, there is a limitation; the question was quite specific. But any answer—
Senator Wong interjecting—
Senator Wong—please. Any answer that covers the material about economic growth is, in my view, directly relevant.
Thank you very much, Mr President. I cannot possibly answer a question about the economic growth in Australia without actually comparing the two alternative policy agendas that were put forward to the Australian people. Under our agenda of lower taxes—pro growth, pro opportunity, pro aspiration—the economy continues to grow. Under the alternative, the economy would have been weaker and Australians would have been poorer. And in Australia, compared with other countries around the world, we actually do continue to grow. As the Reserve Bank governor also said, growth is expected to strengthen into the future. Have you looked at our employment growth? It is more than twice the growth rate across the OECD economies. There is more than twice the growth rate in employment, compared with the OECD average. But the Labor Party doesn't want to talk about the impact of their policies compared with ours, because they are deeply embarrassed about the fact that the Australian people have rejected their socialist agenda. (Time expired)
In Mr Morrison's last budget as Treasurer, the government forecast that the economy would grow by three per cent in 2018-19. Can the minister confirm that the Morrison government has fallen well short of its own economic growth targets?
I refer Senator Wong to the most recent budget, where the growth forecast for 2018-19 was 2¼ per cent, and that is in on-average, through-the year terms. The actual growth rate, in real terms, is 1.9, which is slightly below what was anticipated, because some of the downside risks—which we pointed to in the budget—have eventuated. But let me also tell you that nominal growth is actually higher than we anticipated at budget time. We forecast nominal growth of five per cent at budget time for 2018-19, and we have recorded 5.3 per cent nominal growth. So, nominal growth is slightly higher; real growth has come in slightly lower. We're not making any secret about the fact that the Australian economy is facing global economic headwinds. We're not making any secret about the fact that we're dealing with downside risks in the domestic economy, from floods and drought and so on. But we are dealing with it, and our policy agenda makes Australia stronger compared with the alternative. (Time expired)
Under the strong and stable leadership of three prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers and three treasurers, and following 16 failed energy policies, Australians are experiencing stagnant wages—oh, and one finance minister; he is the constant in this poor economic record—as well as record household debt, surging energy prices, increasing rental and mortgage stress and declining living standards. Isn't it clear, after six years of coalition government with no plan for the economy, Australians are working harder and going backwards?
(—) (): We took our plan to build a stronger economy to the last election, and the Australian people endorsed it. And let me also just correct the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate again. She's wrong when she talks about stagnant wages. Wages are actually growing above inflation. The most recent wages data shows 2.3 per cent wages growth, compared with 1.6 per cent CPI. That is not stagnant wages; that is wages growing above inflation. Yes, we would like wages to grow more strongly, and that will happen, on the back of our agenda to continue to build a stronger, more successful economy. If we want businesses to be able to pay higher wages, we need to ensure that they've got better opportunities to be successful. That is precisely what our government is doing, as the unemployment rate continues to come down. It was headed for 6¼ per cent and beyond when we came into government. The then shadow Treasurer was actually saying that the test would be whether we could keep it below 6¼ per cent; it's down to 5.2 per cent. We will continue to work to get it lower, but the Australian people know that your agenda would have left them— (Time expired)