Thursday, 13 February 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate how the Morrison government is building a stronger economy which rewards hardworking Australians?
I thank Senator Henderson for that question. Let me say up-front: it's really good to be here. It's really good to be here to explain to the Senate what the Morrison government is doing to build a stronger economy, creating better opportunities for the Australian people to get ahead. Because when we came into government we inherited from the Labor Party a weakening economy, rising unemployment, a rapidly deteriorating budget position. We worked hard to turn that around.
Last financial year the budget returned to balance; this year we are on track to return the budget to surplus and we have the first current account surplus in 40 years. We have the lowest welfare dependency in more than 30 years. We have been able to give the biggest tax cuts in more than 20 years, leaving more money in peoples' pockets, and there have been more than 1.5 million new jobs created under our period in government. In fact, in December our employment rate fell to 5.1 per cent. When Labor lost government it was on the way past six per cent. Indeed, retail trade volumes in the December quarter grew at 0.5 per cent, the strongest increase in a year and a half. Household disposable income in the December quarter had its biggest rise in a decade under our government. Building approvals are up by almost three per cent, year on year.
This week the Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey said consumer sentiment was up by 2.3 per cent. We are delivering for the Australian people. While the Labor Party treats this institution with disrespect, we continue to do the job for the Australian people of building a stronger economy, creating more jobs, creating more opportunities for Australians to get ahead. That is why the Australian people re-elected us at the last election. That is why they voted against your socialist agenda, which they knew would leave every Australian worse off.
Our policies are all about delivering more affordable, more reliable energy supplies in a way that helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. We on this side of the chamber understand that it's very important to have a responsible and environmentally sustainable energy mix, including of course a very strong commitment to renewables. We are leading the world when it comes to the investment in renewables. But we also understand the need to ensure that we have got affordable and reliable supplies based on coal and gas. Coal is and remains important to our energy security and our energy affordability. Not only does it provide cheap power; it also provides tens of thousands of jobs across regional communities. And, of course, exporting Australian coal helps us to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, which is why Labor should be supporting it.
Government senators interjecting—
That was a very big wind-up, but actually yesterday I probably should have taken a point of order on a similar question from, I think, Senator Rennick. It is: there must be some reference to government policies. That wording was slightly better than yesterday's, but I would ask you—
Mr President, there is a lot of precedent associated with these types of questions; there generally is a form of wording which the government is not complying with. I ask you to consider that.
On the point of order: the reference here in this question, the relevance of the Otis group, is about government policy, because it's a group of Labor ministers who want to adopt the government policy on coal.
Order, Senator Canavan. After yesterday, I did consult the Clerk on this matter, with my ability to potentially foresee a question. The previous ruling, which has been applied by numerous Presidents—Sibraa, Reid and Calvert—is that a question which invites a minister to comment on the policies or actions of non-government parties is out of order unless the question seeks an expression of the government's intentions in some matter of ministerial responsibility. In my view, yesterday's question probably crossed that line. I will let the minister continue this but I will review the Hansard on the basis that this question, which I don't have detailed notes of, asked for the minister's awareness. So I will not rule it out of order at this point but I will review the Hansard, and can I urge my colleagues who ask questions to keep those standing orders in mind.
Thank you, Mr President. I am optimistic about our future, because we now know that Senator Farrell is leading the next generation of Labor leaders into supporting more responsible economic policies, and that is a great thing. Courtesy of Channel 10, we now know who the members of this coal-industry- and coal-worker-supporting Otis group are. Senator Sterle is on there twice, and—
There are quite a few Labor senators on there. Senator Sterle appears there twice. Is he particularly committed or is he covering for somebody else? Maybe he's covering for Senator Sheldon, because he wrote a big job application for the Otis group nine years ago. In fact, it was written up by one Matthew Franklin. You might know who that is. I think he might work in Mr Albanese's office. Senator Sheldon appeared in front of my inquiry when he described Labor-Green carbon taxes as death taxes. I table— (Time expired)