Senate debates

Monday, 9 September 2019

Questions without Notice

Economy

2:15 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The 2019 HILDA Survey revealed that, since the coalition was elected in 2013, median household incomes in Australia have gone backwards, declining from $80,208 in 2013 to $80,095 in 2017. Can the minister explain why?

2:16 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

What I can explain is that the Australian economy has faced a number of global economic headwinds, and everybody other than the Labor Party understands that. We are an open trading economy. If you look at what's happening in economies around the world, our economy continues to grow and continues to generate more jobs. There have been 1.4 million new jobs under our government, with, in particular, the highest workforce participation on record, equal highest workforce participation among women, 100,000 new jobs for young people in a very short time, welfare dependency as a share of the working-age population at its lowest in 30 years and a AAA credit rating which has been reaffirmed by the three leading rating agencies. We are one of only 10 countries with that rating.

All of these arguments that the Labor Party are now throwing at us are all ones the Labor Party were putting to us in the lead-up to the last election, and the Australian people judged that there was a better opportunity for them to get ahead under our policies than under the alternative. So the Labor Party can try to run this argument as long as they want, but the truth is, yes, we are facing challenges and, yes, our government have a plan to ensure we are resilient and in the best possible position to deal with those challenges. Where other economies are going backwards, our economy continues to grow and create better opportunities for families to get ahead. You've always got to look at what the alternative scenario would've been—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Gallagher, on a point of order?

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I did wait for some time, Mr President, but it's on relevance. The question was around the HILDA Survey, and we drew on some statistics from that. The minister has not gone close to even attempting to answer that question. We can understand why. But certainly, on relevance, he should be drawn to answer the question—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

On the point of order, I remind ministers that answers must be directly relevant. However, I cannot instruct them how to answer a question. I do believe the minister talking about economic issues and the government's record in relation to this question would be directly relevant. I call the minister to continue.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Household income is higher under our government than it would've been under the alternative.

Opposition senators interjecting

You can laugh about that, but, for starters, you went to the last election with $387 billion in higher taxes. Over the last three months, since the second week of July, the tax office has put $15.1 billion back into the pockets of hardworking Australians. Do you know why? It's because of our plan to provide income tax relief for hardworking Australians, which the Labor Party fought every step of the way, right until the end. There's $15.1 billion in tax cuts currently stimulating the economy that wouldn't have been there— (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Gallagher, a supplementary question?

2:18 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister confirm that household incomes per capita haven't grown in the six years since the Liberals came to office—yes or no?

2:19 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I will say it again: incomes are higher than they would have been if there hadn't been a change of government back in 2013. That is because employment growth was lower under Labor, the economy was weakening under Labor and the budget position was rapidly deteriorating under Labor. Of course, we have put our country in a stronger position and on a more resilient trajectory for the future.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

He may be getting to household income per capita. I will sit down. Thank you.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

It's in very small font, because it's very important, detailed information. The latest ABS data shows that income equality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, decreased from 0.333 in 2013-14 to 0.328 in 2017-18. These findings are consistent with the latest data from the 2019 HILDA, which shows that, while the Gini coefficient—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Having a Liberal finance minister talk about the Gini coefficient is very interesting, but the question was about household incomes per capita not having grown in six years—since this minister became finance minister.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind ministers that, while I cannot instruct them on how to answer questions, when very specific questions are asked, one must tightly remain directly relevant to them. On this basis, I think the minister is being directly relevant, dealing with the economic statistics and record of the government.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

There are 1.4 million more Australians in jobs, wages continue to grow above inflation, there's $15.1 billion worth of tax cuts and there's increasing effective wages growth as a result of our government. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Gallagher, a final supplementary question.

2:20 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians are working harder but going backwards, experiencing stagnant wages, record household debt, surging energy prices, increasing rental and mortgage stress, and declining living standards. When will the Morrison government finally take action to turn the floundering economy around?

2:21 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, let me just say again: the economy is much stronger than it would have been if the Labor Party had been in government over the last six years. Under our government, the economy has continued to grow, there are 1.4 million more Australians in jobs, we have a record participation rate and an equal record participation rate for women, and wages continue to grow above inflation.

What the Australian people understand but what the Labor Party clearly doesn't understand is that our economic policy agenda offers an even better opportunity for stronger growth into the future. They made a judgement. Labor's favoured higher-taxing agenda, anti-business, politics of envy and class warfare agenda would have made the country and economy weaker and would have made all Australians poorer. That is why the Australian people voted for us. It's time that the Labor Party reassessed its socialist agenda, as even Mr Butler is suggesting. Even Mr Butler is suggesting that they need to have a look at—(Time expired)