Thursday, 17 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. There's an old political joke in this country that goes something like this: what have all Young Liberals got in common? They were children who never learnt to share. In these precarious times, with so many clouds on the horizon—
Senator Bernardi interjecting—
I can understand why you don't find that funny. With so many Australians doing it tough and needing a leg up, wouldn't you agree that now is the time to share the budget surplus with all Australians to directly stimulate the economy, including by raising Newstart, increasing the minimum wage, reversing the cuts to penalty rates, removing the cap on public sector wages and massively increasing infrastructure spending?
Senator Whish-Wilson has just proven that he has never spent time at a Young Liberals meeting, because he clearly doesn't know what brings Young Liberals together and what brings Liberals around Australia together. That is because we understand that the best way to ensure Australians today and in the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead is to support individual freedom, support free enterprise, reward effort and encourage people to stretch themselves. We know from countries around the world that policies that are based on an agenda supporting freedom, supporting free enterprise, rewarding effort and supporting and incentivising people to have a goal is the best way to build the strongest possible economy so that individuals, their families and communities have the best possible living standards. That is what brings Young Liberals, Liberals and, I'm sure, Nationals around Australia together. That is the agenda that the Australian people voted for at the last election after being presented with the socialist agenda of those opposite, who wanted to push up taxes and put their hands into people's pockets. People understood that would have reduced opportunity. We are for more opportunity and more jobs, and that is why we joined this great movement that is the Liberal cause.
In June this year, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, said, 'If the government can build productive capacity by borrowing at low interest rates, it seems like that is a good thing to do.' Minister, given that interest rates have never been lower in our country's history, why is your government still obsessed with paying down debt rather than borrowing to build and stimulate the economy and set up Australia for the new century?
Let me just make this point: we are totally focused on making sure that the Australian economy is as strong and as resilient as possible in an uncertain world. We are an open trading economy. We are a globally focused and globally exposed trading economy. As we have seen in recent times, what happens in the world has an impact on our domestic economy. Because of that, as part of a plan to build a stronger and more resilient economy, one very important feature is to ensure that government lives within its means so that our funding for welfare services, health, education and national security is on a fiscally sustainable basis. The reason we are committed to paying down the level of debt is to ensure that we protect future generations from that burden of additional taxes and deeper spending cuts in order to ensure that our balance sheet can withstand future economic shocks that could come our way because of what happens in the world. (Time expired)
Speaking of shocks, just yesterday the IMF also called the governments internationally to borrow to build, including to fund infrastructure investment to address climate change. Minister, if we're not yet in an economic emergency, we are in a climate emergency. Why won't you use the government's borrowing capacity to build the clean energy future that would address the economic woes this country faces as well as the current climate emergency?
Firstly, I reject the premise of the question, and let me say again that those of us on this side of the chamber—Liberal-National party senators—believe in environmental protection that is economically responsible. As far as climate change is concerned, I've said many times in this chamber that we are committed to effective action on climate change in a way that is economically responsible.
Senator Wong interjecting—
And here we have the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate interjecting. This is from a party that doesn't have a policy on climate change. What is your policy on climate change? What is the Labor Party policy on climate change? They've got 30 policies on climate change, and nobody knows what the other's policy is. Again, on this side we have a plan to meet our 2030 emissions reduction target. We will stick to that plan. We'll deliver on those targets. When we came into government we were running behind our Kyoto 2020 target. We are now running ahead because of the actions of this government. So, don't give us any lectures when it comes to emissions reduction. (Time expired)