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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 569


Mr HASTIE (Canning) (16:34): Welcome back to the 45th Parliament in 2017, Mr Speaker. This is the first time I have addressed you this year.

As we return to parliament we do so in the context of a nation that is uncertain and anxious about the future. There are questions, fears and dissatisfaction looming in the minds of many. Some of these are big, existential questions: the strength of our alliances, the stability of our region and the prosperity and future of our country. Others are more immediate, more personal: where can I get a decent job? How am I going to pay my power bill? What sort of school should I send my kids to?

It has become almost something of a cliche to say in recent times, but people are disillusioned with politics as usual. They either believe that politicians do not have the answers, or they do not expect us to work together for the common good. Instead, they expect us to be self-interested and largely ineffective. I know there are many good people in this place, on both sides of the House, and that most of us come here with the best of intentions. But the fact is that the public's low expectations are often built on reality, and so I think that we all need to lift our game this year.

It would be naive, of course, to expect that we could put aside our differences and come together in agreement on a single agenda. We have sharp, fundamental differences in many policy areas, which is a reflection of deeper, philosophical convictions, and consensus is often not possible. However, I think we should strive to lift the tone of our debate and restore the dignity that people have invested in this House.

Iron sharpens iron and, likewise, the robust Westminster system, with government and opposition seeking the public good, is good for Australia. So we need to do that with dignity and respect. With that in mind, I offer a snapshot of some of the priorities I believe we must pursue in 2017.

One of the fundamental questions that must be asked is, 'What sort of a place do we want Australia to be?' I firmly believe that the first thing we should see when looking at our nation is society, rather than government. Local institutions should define the character and activity of our nation from the ground up. Charitable groups, religious organisations, sporting clubs, social societies, free enterprises and community assemblies: this is where Australia begins—not in Parliament House.

To that end, we must ensure that the regulation oversight exercised by government is minimised as much as possible. Governments are rarely effective in building a good community by using fiat or direct orders. Government must not be allowed to stunt the natural growth and exercise of society. Of course, government does have a very important part to play. It keeps people safe, maintains the rule of law, ensures an open and competitive marketplace, promotes economic growth and provides a safety net for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Government is vital, but must always have only a supporting role; it is not the main actor.

Therefore, our legislative goals must reflect this ideal. That is why it is important for the government to pursue action during this session of parliament. I will start with company tax reform. The member for Deakin just spoke on the importance of passing that legislation. He comes from a family of small-business owners, so he knows better than anyone the importance of company tax reform. What is it, in essence? We want to reduce our current corporate tax rate of 30 per cent to 25 per cent, starting with businesses with a turnover of $10 million or less and extending that to all corporate entities by 2026-27—in 10 years from now.

We need to make Australia globally competitive. We are falling behind. Canada has a rate of 15 per cent, Singapore is at 17.5 per cent, Britain is at 20 per cent—under their Prime Minister, they are heading towards 17 per cent by 2020—and America is at 35 per cent, with an aspirational goal of 15 per cent. If we want to continue to be competitive, we need to attract labour and capital, and we will do that with a lower corporate tax rate. This goes to the heart of our prosperity, it goes to the heart of our standard of living and it goes to the security of our nation because no country can fund and resource their defence force without a healthy economy. This, I believe, is absolutely central to the government's vision, and it is essential to a flourishing Australia. It is also essential to a flourishing Western Australia. Given our relative geographic isolation, we need to attract as much investment as possible.