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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2795


Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongAssistant Treasurer) (15:21): I will start with a quote: 'If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.' That quote did not come from George Costanza. That quote did not come from Jerry Seinfeld. That quote did not come from Bob—

A government member: Justin Bieber?

Mr FRYDENBERG: or Justin Bieber. That quote came from the Leader of the Opposition. It goes to the heart of this debate, which is that those opposite do not know where they are going. They have no economic narrative, no economic policies and no economic direction.

If we look at the action that we need to take now in government, it all goes back to repairing the debt-and-deficit legacy that was bequeathed to us by those opposite.

When Labor came to government at the end of 2007, they were given a pristine balance sheet. There was $50 billion in the bank and a surplus of $20 billion. We had paid back $96 billion of Labor debt. We had created two million jobs and we had seen real wages growth of above 20 per cent. But, after six years of the chaos and dysfunction of the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd governments, we inherited a balance sheet which was in a total mess. Debt was heading on a trajectory towards $667 billion. The interest bill for the Australian people—for every man, woman and child—was heading to $1 billion a month and growing over time to $3 billion a month. In fact, the total debt bill for every Australian man, woman and child was going to head towards $25,000.

The reason that Labor left this mess was that they are addicted to spending. They did not know how to say no. Even though income increased by 22 per cent when Wayne Swan was the Treasurer, we actually saw income increase but spending grow even faster. The OECD looked at 17 advanced economies and found that Australia's spending growth was the fastest amongst those 17 advanced economies. Independent advisers like the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Commission of Audit and the Governor of the Reserve Bank said that we were on the wrong trajectory, but Labor is addicted to spending.

It is really interesting to listen to the member for McMahon. The member for McMahon said in one of his interviews:

… I completely agree and accept that the next election will be a choice and it will be as much about the alternative vision that the Labor Party provides as the failings of the Government. The Australian people are over the magic pudding Santa Claus economics—

Well, do you know who believes in magic pudding economics? It is the professor of ouzo economics. He loves magic pudding economics and so does the Leader of the Opposition. The member for Hughes has very kindly pointed me in the direction of Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding. I opened it up at page 18 and found that it sums up Labor's economic policy:

'My word,' said Bill, … 'You have to be as smart as paint to keep this Puddin' in order'—

said Bill—

'That's where the Magic comes in,' explained Bill. 'The more you eats the more you gets.'

That is the essence of the Labor Party's economic policy: 'The more you eats the more you gets'—because the more you spend the more you think you save. It does not work. We got the carbon tax—a slug of $550 on every Australian household. We got the mining tax, which was expected to produce more than $50 billion and ended up producing just over $300 million. We had the boat disaster, which led to more than 50,000 people coming, an $11 billion bill to the Australian taxpayer and, dare I say it, the tragedy of more than 1,000 people dying at sea. That was the legacy of the Labor Party, including 21,000 cheques which went to dead people along the way.

We have been left to clear up this mess, whether it has been their broadband, where in just the six years Labor were in office they spent $7 billion and only reached three per cent of the targeted homes. We have had to fix up that mess. We have had to stop the boats and remove people from detention. We have had to abolish the carbon tax and we have had to abolish the mining tax. In fact, the Intergenerational report says that, when it comes to repairing Labor's debt and deficit legacy, we are actually making significant headway. We were on a trajectory over the next 40 years where debt and deficit was to reach 122 per cent of GDP or $5.6 trillion. As a result of our legislated measures—not our proposed measures; our legislated measures—we have reduced that to under half. We have passed around 80 per cent of our budget measures, but we still have a long way to go. We have around $30 billion worth of savings stuck in the Senate because those opposite are refusing to support them, including $5 billion worth of savings that they took to the last election.

As a result of our policies we are starting to see some green shoots across the Australian economy, with economic growth of 2.7 per cent in 2014. It was under two per cent under you in 2013. We have seen job advertisements at the highest level in 28 months. We are creating 600 new jobs a day. In fact, when we look at retail numbers, we see that they have been going up for eight consecutive months. Housing starts are very strong, In New South Wales we are seeing housing starts at the strongest they have been for some time. We are rolling out infrastructure projects in every state, except those where the Labor state government are ripping up contracts like the East West Link in Victoria and seeing 7,000 jobs disappear overnight—vitally, 7,000 jobs which the state of Victoria needs.

Today we had a very good policy announcement—to reverse the cash grab by those opposite of unclaimed moneys. They went against all logic and put their hands into people's savings account and said that moneys in inactive accounts would be identified as unclaimed moneys after three years of inactivity instead of after seven years. We have reversed that change made by the Labor Party—which was also a recommendation of David Murray's financial systems inquiry. We are also putting better privacy provisions in place and we are also excluding the children's accounts and accounts in foreign currencies from the unclaimed moneys regime.

We are also today celebrating our third repeal day. It has been so successful as a means of reducing Labor's red tape, In fact, Labor gave us 21,000 additional regulations and, as a result of the measures put in place by people on this side of the House, we have removed more than 50,000 pages from the statute books. We have removed more than 10,000 pieces of regulation and legislation and we have made it easier for small business, for big business, for individuals and, importantly, for the not-for-profit sector.

We are making a really important headway in fixing up Labor's mess. What we have to guide us is the Intergenerational report. The IGR told us that not only are we paying back Labor's debt and deficit at a record rate but we are also living longer and seeing our incomes rising. The key to Australia's successful future will be about boosting productivity and boosting participation. One of the things we need to do is get more seniors into the workforce. That is why we have really positive proposals, plans and policies, like the Restart program, which actually incentivises employers to take on senior Australians.

Also, we will be putting out our child care and families package, because we want to see more women get into the workforce. Right now, we are about six points behind where Canada is in terms of the percentage of eligible working age women who are in the workforce. We need to bring more women into the workforce, because that will produce a $25 billion productivity dividend for the Australian economy.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr FRYDENBERG: To those on the other side who are heckling I want to finish on this point. Those who are heckling have long-term experience in the union movement, and if you want to know of one way to boost productivity and growth in Australian economy, it is about bringing back the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The Australian Building and Construction Commission was effectively the cop on the beat. If we are able to bring back the ABCC it will lead to a $6 billion annual productivity dividend for the Australian economy and it will see more jobs created.

The motion moved by the member for McMahon goes against all the evidence of the successful policies we have put in place: paying back Labor's debt; on the road back to surplus; and on the road to a stronger Australian economy.