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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1118


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (15:51): The coalition government is absolutely committed to building a strong and prosperous economy for all Australians. We have an economic action strategy to grow the Australian economy and to fix the Labor debt and deficit disaster.

Today I have not heard a plan from the other side. Members opposite have failed to describe what they would do to strengthen our economy and create an environment where business can create more jobs. The shadow minister for employment today has made false and misleading statements. Firstly, the shadow minister for employment needs to check his facts. He claimed this morning that 1.5 million Australians rely on the minimum wage. In 2012, nationwide, 211,900 employees were paid the national minimum wage, not the 1.5 million claimed by Labor.

Secondly, the shadow minister for employment needs to brush up on the history of his own party's policies. As was pointed out earlier by members on this side, in 2012 the current Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, reviewed the fair work laws. The member for Gorton failed to mention that it was Mr Shorten, following the review of the fair work laws, who made recommendations to reduce the number of public holidays on which penalty rates could be paid. In fact, Mr Shorten initiated the Fair Work Commission's current review of penalty rates. This current review actually has the power to reduce and/or abolish penalty rates.

In the 2013 election the coalition government committed to engaging the Productivity Commission on a review of the workplace relations framework. The terms of reference for this review seek to identify how to balance the protections for workers with ensuring that businesses are able to grow, prosper and employ more workers. Members opposite are fully aware that the Productivity Commission has no power to make changes to either the minimum wage or penalty rates, unlike the Fair Work Commission review requested by the Leader of the Opposition.

The Minister for Employment has made it very clear that, if recommendations are made by the Productivity Commission in regard to minimum wages or penalty rates, the government will not move on them. It is not the place of this government to abolish or change penalty rates; it is the responsibility of the Fair Work Commission, an independent umpire, to determine the minimum wage and penalty rates.

The Abbott government is getting on with the job of building a strong and prosperous economy. That is the foundation for job growth. The best way to create jobs is to build a strong and prosperous economy that promotes workforce participation, productivity and job creation. Last year 213,900 jobs were created. That is one new job every 2½ minutes. During Labor's time in office unemployment went from 4.4 per cent in November 2007 to 5.7 per cent in September 2013 and the jobless queue grew to 200,000. Today job advertisement levels are at their highest in over two years, with a yearly growth of job advertisements at a 3½-year high.

Under Labor, 129,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared completely—that is, over one in every 10. This year 223,013 new companies were registered in Australia—21,000 more than the previous year, an increase of 10.2 per cent. This is a record number since Australian Securities and Investments Commission records began in 1999.

Under Labor we lost 412,000 jobs in small business. The coalition government recognises that small business is the engine room for growth and jobs in Australia. Small businesses represent more than 97 per cent of all Australian businesses and employ two out of five individuals in the workforce. There are around two million actively trading small businesses in Australia. Last year alone we had the largest number of start-up businesses in Australian history. The coalition government has a plan to build a strong and prosperous Australia. The Labor Party and members who have spoken today have demonstrated that they have no plan.