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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 285

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (17:41): I am sure there is an echo in the chamber. I know it is a new parliament, but I hear the same old platitudes that we hear over and over and over again from the Liberal Party and in particular from Senator Macdonald, who continues to repeat the myth that is becoming apparent to the Australian community, that the Liberal Party, for all their constant claiming of being good economic managers, are absolutely misrepresenting the reality of Australia's economic history. There is no greater example of how bad they actually are as economic managers than the man they have now allowed to be their Prime Minister, the man who came in to remove Tony Abbott because he said Tony was not doing a good job with the economy. So, Malcolm came in to fix it. I thought it was Mr Pyne who was going to be the fixer, but Malcolm decided that he would be the fixer, and instead of fixing the NBN he decided to turn his hand to the economy of the nation.

Well, what we have seen on his watch and on the Liberals' watch is the lowest jobs growth and the lowest wage growth in Australia's recorded history. And why does that matter so much? Why does wage growth—not cutting wages and cutting penalty rates—matter so much? Because people need that jobs growth. We need inflation to keep the economy moving, and we need people to have enough money to spend and to keep putting that money into the economy. Sadly, this government only talk about debt as a negative; they do not understand the concept of using money as an investment. They myth of good management that I have just articulated continues, though, to be spun by those opposite.

What we have seen from Malcolm Turnbull is a spectacular misrepresentation of an understanding of what good economic management might look like. I know that since September and his rise to the office of Prime Minister we have had a range of economic plans. You could take your pick. It was like a 'choose your own adventure'—wake up any day and you might find that Malcolm has one view of the economy and the next day it will have completely changed. We had the increase in the GST. I have a theory about the discussions around that, particularly with New South Wales Premier Baird, who was absolutely counting on some sort of private deal that I think he thought he had got with Tony Abbott to get the GST funding and be able to fund the necessary health budget for New South Wales. That deal fell over, and Malcolm came in, and instead we have had the discussion that yes, the GST is on the table. And then it is off the table. Malcolm had multiple positions. Then, when that did not look like it was going to fly, he moved to double taxation of the states. Talk about duplication of responsibilities. Talk about increased costs. Talk about red tape and inefficiencies. But that was one of the genius plans that we saw hatched by Malcolm Turnbull, the great economic leader of the nation—absolutely not a reality.

Then there was his great idea of a percentage floor on GST distributions. In addition to that there have been no fewer than four proposals on lifetime superannuation caps. In the course of the election, standing on the side of the road in the main street of Gosford, Mann Street, I watched voter after voter come up and address the people who were handing out pamphlets for the Liberals. They talked about their absolute anger at the retrospectivity of the superannuation proposals from what they thought was their own government. It reveals how out of touch this manager of the economy, which Malcolm claims to be, is.

I would like to make some remarks inside the beltway in terms of the Liberal Party. Senator Cameron made a few remarks referring to an article I am sure that he saw from Neelima Choahan in The Sydney Morning Herald. After the election Michael Kroger indicated that he completely blamed the Prime Minister and the Treasurer for their failure to show economic leadership in this country. He attributed that failure of economic leadership as the main cause of the failure of this government at the polls. The confusion from the period of September to May that I have just spoken was something that he cited, but let us not forget that we also had the confusion about the tax white paper—revealing another characteristic of this government. People forget that the tax white paper was going to be on and then all of a sudden they pulled it. This confusion, which has been a signature of the Abbott-Turnbull period of Liberal governance, is most prominent if you look at the area of the economy.

Malcolm Turnbull promised new economic leadership, but we have seen the deficit blow out. It was registered in the budget last year as $11 billion worse and worse in every year of the forward estimates—blowing out the deficit by $36 billion since the 2015 budget. Under their economic management, which Senator Macdonald was lauding in his most recent comments, we have seen the Liberal Party, under the leadership of Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull, triple the deficit in three budgets, and that debt is absolutely still going up—$100 billion worth of debt.

The government talk a lot about tax. They keep saying how they are a low-taxing government, but the GDP ratio will rise every single year of the forward estimates, hitting 23.5 per cent by 2020. That is the recipe that we are seeing unfold under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and that is why today's debate is so important. Malcolm Turnbull is absolutely failing to come up with any adequate economic policy for this country. It could not have been put better than the way it was put by Ross Gittens, who actually penned an article as recently as 9 July. His article was titled, 'Man with no plan leaves voters with heap of flimflam.' Ross Gittins pointed out the fact that:

Malcolm Turnbull went to the election offering a 'national plan for jobs and growth' that was supposed to secure our future.

Ross Gittens then clearly pointed out that Malcolm Turnbull will be very unlikely 'to be able to implement' his plan, which was the 'phased reduction over 10 years of the rate of company tax, from 30 per cent to 25 per cent'. In the structure that Malcolm advanced he not only proposed a tax cut that would be given to great big businesses but also actually redefined small businesses from genuine small businesses, which are vital to the local economies of much of regional Australia, and instead put his mates at the big end of town right in the spot to be able to get all of the cuts.

Clearly Labor have opposed the cut, except for the immediate reduction to 27.5 per cent for genuinely small businesses, because we actually understand the economy. We understand that workers need to get adequate and fair pay for a day's work, that they are a vital part of the economy and that it is not just big business that deserves the attention of the government. Ross Gittens went on to point out that the supposed five-point plan for the economy of Australia is actually 'a muddle of things that will be done, things already done and a point saying what the plan will achieve.' He continued:

Point four is the company tax cut and point five is 'a strong new economy with more than 200,000 jobs to be created in 2016-17'. This is just Treasury's budget forecast for growth in employment. Few of those extra jobs would have been 'created' by anything the government did.

The disingenuousness way this government talks about the economy is an insult to Australia's intelligence.

Worse still for me, as a Labor senator, is the impact of the choices that are being revealed by this terrible economic mismanagement of the federal government. In advancing the choices that they advance, they take away from other parts of the economic reality of this nation. We have seen massive cuts to schools, cuts to Medicare cuts to families which increase the cost of living, cuts to higher education and cuts to veterans hospitals. We have seen a GP tax, cuts that are impacting people's access to doctors, and a big tax break for banks and multinationals. The choices that this government have made and—for want of a better word to describe it—the economic mess that they have inflicted under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull deserve the derision of the Australian people. The myths that— (Time expired)