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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1969


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:18): It gives me great pleasure to contribute to this debate. Shadow minister Wong, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, cites the front page of The Financial Review, whilst her and her colleagues were very quiet when we quoted that very paper in another question in question time today. They were silent and were turning their backs and only focused on some aspects of The Financial Review. But as Senator Wong went through her government's record, it is not a record she should be proud of. When you are comparing yourself to economies in the global context—'We're better than Greece', 'We're better than Spain'—you know what? That is like claiming the cup when the only people you are racing against are toddlers. It is absolutely ridiculous.

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator McKENZIE: The reality is when you are paying $1 billion a month in interest, Senator Polley, that is three Adelaide hospitals every year—paid in full, every year. Three billion dollars in interest is a new Adelaide hospital every three months.

This government is committed to a sustainable return to surplus. Last week, we had the release of the Intergenerational report by the Treasurer which outlined the very significant challenges for our nation going forward. You know what? There are swings and roundabouts in this game we are all in. If the opposition are serious about leadership, if they seriously had a backbone, if they seriously had an iota of credibility to contribute to this debate and to the challenges that face us all as a nation going forward, they would be taking on board the issues raised in the Intergenerational report and thinking, 'How do we actually assist the government in getting back to a sustainable, credible path to surplus?'

We do not know who is actually going to be in charge of the budget as the ageing population tsunami is coming towards us. How are we going to ensure that millions of Australians approach retirement in a way that can guarantee a way of life that they have known so well? We are absolutely committed to building the strong foundation that we laid last year and having a prudent, frugal and responsible budget, in direct contrast to those opposite in their time in government.

Our economic plan is already underway, and Senator Ruston did make reference to some of the principles of that plan. We are actually targeting two million new jobs over the next decade. We are absolutely focused on getting more Australians, young and old, into the workforce in a sustainable way. That means growing financial security not only at a local level and a regional level but at a national level to ensure a strong economy. We have done that through the free trade agreements that we have negotiated. We have been building infrastructure. We heard questions today from those opposite complaining about building essential infrastructure. That is going to not only provide jobs in construction but contribute to jobs in the regions. For instance, as we get our fabulous green produce to the docks in Melbourne, we needs those roads. We need those roads. It is something you need to get on board with.

We are going to be focusing on growing jobs for older Australians through our various strategies and incentives that will encourage employers to put on those long-term unemployed who need that extra bit of assistance to get back into the workforce. We know that having a job is the very best form of welfare. We know that Australians want to be in full-time employment not because they like to make a lot of money but so that they can care for those they love, so they can provide a roof over their heads. That is why we have also committed to a comprehensive family package. We want a more productive economy not only for our nation's future but also so we as parents and citizens can care for those we love. That is why our families package will be focused on getting more women back into the workforce by ensuring our child care is sustainable.

We have abolished the carbon tax and the mining tax. That has put real money back into people's pockets but, more importantly, has allowed businesses to flourish and employ more people because they are not being constrained by that job-destroying tax. Labor turned nearly $50 billion in the bank into a projected net debt well over $200 billion, the fastest deterioration in debt in dollar terms as a share of GDP in modern Australian history. Labor's debt is already costing— (Time expired)