Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Questions without Notice

Economy

2:00 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to Senator Cormann, the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to yesterday's release of the NAB Monthly Business Survey for August 2019, where their chief economist, Alan Oster, said:

It looks like the tax cuts have had little impact on household consumption or have not been large enough to offset increasing weakness—

in the retail sector. When is the government going to take up or come up with a plan to boost an economy that is floundering on its watch?

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

The only thing that is floundering, as I said yesterday, is Labor's socialist economic agenda, which was comprehensively rejected by the Australian people at the last election. There are always various comments that are issued by various banks. I could refer you to the UBS analysis, which has suggested that, in the September quarter, growth is expected to nearly double compared to the June quarter, on the back of our income tax cuts. You know what our income tax cuts have done? They've put $15 billion more money into workers' pockets. They have increased the take-home pay of workers around Australia. You would have thought that the Labor Party would say that's a good thing.

Of course the Australian economy is facing headwinds. Of course we are facing global economic headwinds. And other substantial economies around the world, like Germany, the United Kingdom and others, are actually going backwards. We are continuing to grow. The reason we're continuing to grow is because of our plan to build a stronger economy, and it's because fiscal policy and monetary policy are working in the same direction. As well as lower interest rates, we've got lower income taxes, we've got more investment in infrastructure and we've got an ambitious free-trade agenda helping our exporting businesses sell more Australian products and services around the world, which is very ably prosecuted by none other than the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, my good friend and colleague Senator Birmingham. We've got an ambitious agenda to reduce the regulatory burden on business to make it easier for business to be successful and hire more Australians.

Let me tell you: these sorts of questions show that the Australian Labor Party still does not accept the verdict of the Australian people at the last election. All of these arguments were put to the Australian people in the lead-up to the last election. And you know what? They opted for our plan of lower taxes—pro growth, pro business, pro jobs—and they voted against your socialist agenda and the politics of envy. (Time expired)

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

Senator Gallacher, a supplementary question?

2:02 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Master Builders Australia agrees with NAB that tax cuts alone will not deal with weakness in the economy. MBA CEO Denita Wawn has told the AFR: 'What's urgently needed is an acceleration of infrastructure projects to the construction phase.' Why is the government ignoring calls to support the economy?

2:03 pm

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

Clearly, Senator Gallacher was provided a question by the tactics committee, and he clearly didn't listen to a single word I said in my primary answer. We are not suggesting that tax cuts are the only thing required to build a stronger economy into the future. Of course we are committed to investing more in infrastructure. That is why we have boosted infrastructure investment from $75 billion to $100 billion, and about half of that over the forward estimates.

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

But you can't convince the MBA or the NAB. Are they socialists too?

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

Here we go! You also didn't listen, Senator Wong, to my primary answer. The UBS, another bank, is predicting that there would be a near-doubling in economic growth in the September quarter on the back of personal income tax cuts. There are different analysts making different comments. But you know what? What will matter is what comes out at the end of the day when the September quarter results are released in early December.

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

Order! Senator Gallacher, a final supplementary question?

2:04 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why is the government so determined to ignore the NAB, the MBA and the Reserve Bank of Australia and even its own backbencher Senator Rennick? When will the government act to support an economy that is floundering on its watch?

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

The only thing that this government will ignore is the floundering socialist economic agenda of the Labor Party which was so soundly rejected by the Australian people. We will continue to implement our plan for a stronger economy and for more jobs, with lower taxes—pro business, pro growth, pro opportunity, pro aspiration. As we know—

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I've listened carefully to your instructions about points of order, and I take you to standing order 72(3)(c). All it says there for our guidance is:

Answers shall be directly relevant to each question.

I hardly see how our conduct, as alleged by Senator Cormann, is directly relevant to the question I asked.

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

On the point of order—I may have prepared for this!—you are correct that ministers must be directly relevant. Using one word of a question does not make an answer to a question relevant to a question. However, it was a very open-ended question, Senator Gallacher, and, in that sense, the minister is being directly relevant to it.

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

As I said yesterday, the Australian economy continues to grow, unlike many other economies around the world. More jobs are being created. A record number of Australians are in work. Wages growth in the 2018-19 financial year was the strongest it has been—2.3 per cent, above inflation at 1.6 per cent—since 2013-14, Labor's last budget year. Labor's socialist agenda is not only floundering with the Australian people; it's even floundering with the member for Port Adelaide, hardly a free-market, capitalist advocate.

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

Order! Senator Gallacher—

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On a point of order: Senator Cormann is misleading the house—

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

I'm afraid time for the answer has expired. So one can't—

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no seat of Port Adelaide anymore.