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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1713


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (14:09): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline what the national accounts figures tell us about the state of the economy?

Mr HOCKEY (North SydneyThe Treasurer) (14:09): I thank the member for Tangney for the question and recognise that the December quarter national accounts released by the ABS today, as the Prime Minister said a little bit earlier, were slightly better than what appears to be the consensus forecast, but still the Australian economy growing at 2.8 per cent for the year is less than trend, which is around three to 3¼ per cent. But, significantly, it is not enough to start to reduce the level of unemployment. So we have to grow the economy faster to improve the speed of economic growth to start to drive down the level of unemployment in the economy.

The best way to do that, the most immediate way to do that, is to remove the shackles on business. It is rare to happen, but a coordinated release by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia came out today and said the Senate should support carbon tax repeal. Business is saying: 'You should support the repeal of the carbon tax.' That is one way that you can immediately lift the speed of Australia's economic growth: repeal the carbon tax imposed by the Labor Party, because it affects every area of business.

Qantas have dominated discussions this week. Qantas have revealed that not only did the carbon tax hit them last year for $106 million that was unrecovered—that they could not claim back from passengers—but their bill is nearly $60 million just for the first six months of this year. In the case of Virgin Airlines, a smaller airline, the bill was nearly $50 million last year. And these are coming off the bottom line of a business that is losing money.

So the best thing we can do, the most constructive thing we can do for the economy right now, is to have the Labor Party in the Senate change its mind and repeal the carbon tax. The same goes for the mining tax, and the same goes for the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Why would you want to stop putting in place an entity that is going to improve productivity on construction sites? Why would you want to do it? I will tell you why: because you owe more to the union leaders than you do to the workers. That is the only reason that I can see in relation to the Leader of the Opposition. So I say to the Leader of the Opposition, if he cares about the workers, if he does want to have more jobs, if he wants to lower the level of unemployment: get behind the productivity agenda and the legislative agenda of the coalition now.