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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2309


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (14:15): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline to the House the importance of implementing the big reforms that support our economy and jobs?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:15): I thank the member for Melbourne Ports for his very important question because, from day one, we on this side of the House have made the jobs of working Australians our No. 1 priority, so much so that there are more Australians employed now than we have ever had in our history, and we have an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent. That does not mean to say that there are not challenges elsewhere in the economy, but having an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent after we have come through a really torrid global recession is a very substantial achievement, and it is one that everyone on this side of the House is very proud of. We know that, if those on the other side of the House had had their way, hundreds of thousands of Australians would have been thrown on the unemployment scrap heap and tens of thousands of small businesses would have closed. But we are getting on with the big reforms to ensure strong economic growth and more Australians getting the jobs of the future.

We are investing $3 billion in skills. As Senator Arbib said yesterday, one of the things we are most proud of is our record when it comes to apprenticeships. We are very proud of that record. Everyone on this side of the House knows what we did to keep young Australians in jobs and young Australians getting trained. We are also proud of our investment in infrastructure, building the NBN—and here there is a very clear contrast with those on the other side of the House—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer will pause. Honourable members will remain entirely silent for the rest of the Deputy Prime Minister's answer.

Mr SWAN: They are determined to tear down the NBN and they have no plan to train the workforce of the future. We are introducing—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I listened carefully to the question, as I am sure you did, and the Treasurer was not asked at any point to comment on the opposition's policies. He is therefore not being directly relevant to the question.

The SPEAKER: The question related to reforms—big reforms—to support the economy and jobs. The Treasurer will focus on the question that he was asked.

Mr SWAN: Certainly, Mr Speaker. We are introducing a carbon price, absolutely essential to drive investment in renewable energy, to make sure that we are the first-class economy in the 21st century—opposed every step of the way by those opposite. What we are doing is trebling the tax-free threshold—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Mackellar will remove herself under the provisions of standing order 94(a). I instructed that the Treasurer was to be heard in silence.

The member for Mackellar then left the chamber.

Mr SWAN: We are very proud of our proposal to treble the income-tax-free threshold, a very substantial benefit for low-income Australians, something that will be ripped away by those opposite, along with the increases in pensions and family payments.

And we are determined to spread the benefits of the mining boom right around Australia: the tax cuts to 2.7 million small businesses, opposed by those opposite. We are determined to bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13, something that those opposite cannot do. They have walked away from their commitment to surplus because of a $70 billion crater in their own budget bottom line. That $70 billion crater means they cannot—

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will return to the question before the House.

Mr SWAN: put forward alternative policies for the future.

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will focus on the question he has been asked.

Mr SWAN: We have the reform policies for the future. Those on that side of the House have absolutely none.